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Demand vs. Scheduled Breastfeeding

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One of the key decisions as you approach the experience of breastfeeding your baby is whether to breastfeed on demand or according to a schedule. After delivery, you may feel tired, your breasts may hurt and your breast milk might not look like you thought it would. You may be concerned about whether your baby is getting enough to eat. A few considerations may help you make a decision, but it ultimately comes down to what best suits your baby's needs.

Supply and Demand

The law of supply and demand ensures that your newborn gets enough milk from your breasts. The more he suckles, the more milk your breasts produce. If a breastfeeding schedule does not coincide with his desire to feed, he may not take as much milk and your milk production may decrease. When you begin breastfeeding, it’s important to establish a good feeding rhythm with your baby to ensure adequate milk production. This is done by nursing frequently, advises the American Academy of Pediatricians.

Benefits of Demand Feeding

Babies feed for different reasons, explains La Leche League International. The most obvious reason is for nourishment, but it also helps babies to relax and feel secure, and it provides interaction with their mothers. A 2012 study in “European Journal of Public Health” found that school-age children who were breastfed on demand as babies showed significantly higher IQs than their peers who were fed on schedule. For mothers, demand feeding can mean decreased ovulation, breast engorgement and soreness of nipples.

Hunger Cues

Breastfeeding your baby on a pre-set schedule allows you more flexibility and sleep—especially in the first few weeks. Feeding on demand means you must be in tune with your baby's hunger cues, which may include sucking on fingers or fists, acting fidgety, fluttery eyes and tensed arms and hands. A baby’s hunger cry may be a last-resort indicator of hunger, notes La Leche League International.

Well-Fed Babies

A few signs may help you know after a few days whether the type of breastfeeding you have chosen is best for your baby. If your newborn is receiving adequate nutrition, she’ll have frequent and loose bowel movements that change from a tarry-black color to a mustard-yellow in about five days after birth. During that time you can expect about three to four bowel movements each day. After a week, your baby should be having about six to eight wet diapers a day. If she is getting enough to eat, she should be calm and relaxed after feeding, and she should begin to gain weight.

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