Friday, January 9, 2009

What Does Feeding Every 2-3 Hours Mean?

This one's for my beloved cousin, who, somehow, just had a baby of her own. I say somehow, because in my mind, she is forever eons younger than me, and if she's old enough to be a married woman with a baby, that means I'm about to be put out to pasture and start wearing the female equivalent of SansABelt slacks, the floral muumuu. (Shudder!)

Anyway, I remember reading, or hearing, or being told be a nurse after giving birth that my baby needed to eat every two or three hours. Guess what? If you're nursing, this information is misleading at best, and can lead to decreased milk production at worst. Here's the scoop: if you want the down-low on anything breastfeeding related, head to the LaLeche League or to, and read between the lines when people tell you things like this. Why? Because the every 2 or 3 hours thing is based on formula-fed babies, whose intake can be measured, because the feeder gets to put in what they feel like giving. Nursing babies regulate their own intake, so at one session, they may be thirsty and take in lower-calorie foremilk, and then another, possibly shorter, session results in them gulping down buckets of high-calorie hindmilk that fills them up.

That's why nursing on cue and not the clock is best. A newborn who's rooting or making sucking faces should be put to the breast. Crying is not only a late indicator of hunger, it's harder to get a sobbing baby to latch on and calm down and eat. By the time he's crying, you've missed a lot of his little hints. And you've broken out in a cold sweat and feel like a failure.

The other piece of bad news/good news I have for you pregnant and newly nursing mamas is that, while a new baby should nurse around every two to three hours, that doesn't mean two hours should pass between the end of one feeding and the beginning of the next session. Look closely at the directions on your baby's tush (well, they should print them right there -- you're going to see it enough) -- there should be two hours between the beginning of one session and the start of the next. So if Junior takes an hour to fill his little belly, you're getting back up in an hour. (Why they don't use this info as birth control in high-school SexEd classes, I don't know.)

All is not lost, ladies. Here's the very good news: Once you've established breastfeeding (think, around 6 weeks), life will be easier for you than if you'd gone the bottle route. The trick is getting there without hurting yourself and those around you. Ditch the clocks. All of them. Especially the ones you can see in your bedroom at night. And learn to nurse laying down. No point in losing sleep with someone who's not even talking to you. :)

And here's a big congrats and shout-out to my cousin Shelley, husband Joseph, and new son Asher in NYC!!!

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