Breastfeeding works on demand, which means that there is no need for the baby or the mother to wait for a certain amount of time between feeds.
The knowledge related to breastfeeding was gradually lost with the introduction of the bottle-feeding culture in our society. What was worse is that practices associated with bottle feeding were simply applied to breastfeeding. Although it later became clear that this was not necessary, bottle-feeding was introduced with a regular schedule, and this mistake spread over to breastfeeding. It is now known that neither breastfeeding nor bottle-feeding should be done on a schedule, but the myth has deeply taken hold in our society and now it is difficult to make the change.
In reality, each baby has different feeding demands and will need different feeding times.
Remember that sore nipples do not appear because you are breastfeeding more or less time, but because of poor positioning or poor latching on of the baby.
What is normal?
A common pattern for many babies in their first months of breastfeeding is that they might take quite a long time to feed such as a good 30, 45, or 60 minutes. During one feeding session, a baby performs different types of suckling motions at different rates, which can make the feed longer.
It is often claimed that babies drink all the milk they need in the first ten minutes of the feeding session. Although it is true that they may express a large amount of milk in the first minutes of feeding, this does not prevent them from triggering another milk ejection reflex and repeating to take in more milk again.
If your baby is gaining weight well and you are not in pain, a one-hour feed is just as normal as a 10-minute feed.
Also, keep in mind that throughout the day and when they are tired, babies change their feeding pattern, often wanting to breastfeed for longer and longer in the mid-afternoon and early evening feeds.
How long will it last?
At around three months, babies change their breastfeeding pattern and feed in a shorter time, at this age they are already experts and can breastfeed, if they want to, in just a few minutes, which is very surprising for mothers who sometimes think that their baby has eaten too little or is rejecting the breast.
This does not mean that there is a time when breastfeeding stops being on demand, but rather, that the way babies breastfeed changes as they grow. Remember that as they grow older, they do not necessarily have to breastfeed less frequently. Older babies just breastfeed in a different way: more frequently and briefly, except for the feeds when they are tired or sleepy, which can be longer.
Do I have to wait for my baby to ask for a feed?
Well, the answer is: it depends. It depends on each individual situation.
- If your baby is able to wake up on her own and ask to breastfeed and does so 8-12 times a day, then you are breastfeeding on demand.
- If your baby is not able to wake up and ask for the breast on her own, it needs to be up to you to set the demand, so that she can feed at least 8 times a day.
- Remember that breastfeeding also works on the mother’s demand, if you need your baby to feed because you feel full, you can wake her up and offer her the breast
But if your baby is ill, premature, or not regaining weight, you should encourage her to breastfeed and you should establish the demand until she has recovered and is able to ask on her own.
- No matter how old your child is, breastfeeding always works on demand, without set times, schedules or other controls. Because only your child knows how much breastmilk she needs.
- Breastfeeding is on demand when the baby is able to wake up on its own and breastfeed at least 8 times a day.
- Breastfeeding does NOT work on demand when your baby has not regained her birth weight, is premature or is ill. In this case, you must make sure that your baby is breastfeeding at least 8 times a day.