New parents are given lots of advice about how to feed their baby. Where to feed, when to feed, how to hold baby, how long to feed, and so much more!
You may have been told to feed your baby at least 8 times a day or every 3 hours but feeding on a schedule doesn’t really meet baby’s needs.
Baby has a high need for frequent feeds to keep them alert and build their brains! Research shows that with responsive feeding there is a high variability in how many times a day baby will feed but it’s much closer to 12 times per 24hours than 8.
Reasons you should feed your baby on cue:
Readiness – Feeding your baby when they cue means you are offering a meal when they feel hunger and are alert enough to communicate that to you. Imagine being offered your favorite meals when you are super tired…would you feel ready to eat? Or would you have just enough before falling into a deep sleep?
Meeting all baby’s needs – Baby wants to feed and be close to you for lots of reasons! You are their home. You smell like home, you sound like home, you taste like home. Feeding our baby promotes bonding, reduction of stress hormones, brain development, and so much more than just calories and nutrients!
Milk supply – Your baby doesn’t feed on a regular schedule and your body doesn’t make the same kind of milk every 3 hours on the dot. AM milk is different from PM milk. Milk composition changes, too. At different times of the day it will have higher fat or sleep hormones to help set your baby’s clock and meet their nutritional needs. If we schedule all the feeds we miss the opportunity to give baby the perfect custom meal each time!
Feeding when baby asks also supports a robust milk supply! Frequent feeding communicates a need to your body to keep making lots of milk!
Capacity – Different breasts/chests hold different amounts of milk (no, this isn’t related to size). Some people have smaller capacity and can make all the milk baby needs but they need to feed more often. Scheduled feeds or expectation of only 8 feeds in the day can make parents feel like their milk supply is low – when it’s totally normal!
Responsiveness = communication, trust, and independence – What do all these words have in common? They are what happens when we are responsive feeders. When we respond to baby’s needs and pay attention to their body language (rooting, sucking, wiggling, lip smacking) we tell them they are heard. When we respond to our babies they build trust and know their communication will be heard and they will get their needs met. And that’s how we get independence! Studies show that responding to our children and meeting their needs results in more independence in toddlerhood and beyond.