As a new mother, I recall wondering whether I would ever get up off the sofa. The first day that I was left alone with my newborn, ill-prepared for the intensity of babycare, I found myself without food or a drink nearby, glued to the sofa feeding my baby.
Fortunately, this has not always been the way. Once my baby and I had more practice with breastfeeding I found little blips of time in between her feeds to get some food, take her for a walk to buy a newspaper, and sing to her as she kicked on her blanket. We settled into a rhythm that suited us both. But there have been times when she has upped her nursing: when she was having a growth spurt, when she was ill or feeling insecure, when she was approaching a new developmental milestone.
Many mothers aren’t sure what to expect in terms of nursing frequency. Many people expect babies to feed four-hourly. But this expectation is usually unrealistic for a breastfed baby, and can often compromise a mother’s milk supply (frequently-emptied breasts make more milk). Every breastfeeding couple (that’s mother and baby) is unique. Babies have small stomachs– but my newborn’s might be slightly smaller than yours. Babies have varying personalities– some may need more comfort at the breast than others. Babies will vary in activity levels– some may like long stretches of sleep, while others prefer to be awake (which takes more calories!).
Equally, mothers are all different. My breasts will have a different storage capacity from the mother sitting next to me. I might be able to store small amounts of milk (unrelated to breast size), while she stores more. If that’s the case, her baby will probably feed less frequently. Amazingly, milk storage capacity can even change from pregnancy to pregnancy in the same mother! A woman’s body is incredible!
Sometimes babies will have frequency days when they are gearing up for a growth spurt. Or, babies may cluster feed at certain times of day. Changes in a baby’s life, like moving house, a cold or starting to crawl can all mean a baby needs more time at the breast.
One thing that can be really eye-opening is to consider how often you eat and drink throughout the day (don’t forget breastmilk is your baby’s drink too!). I kept track of the number of times in a 24 hour period that a drink or food passed my lips and came up with an average of 13! A morning cup of coffee, breakfast, mid-morning apple, a half glass of water, lunch, a cup of tea, a piece of cake in the afternoon, one of my friend’s chips from her bag, a piece of chocolate later, a glass of wine, dinner…. Try it, and let me know how you get on!
And if you are glued to the sofa and wonder if you will ever move again, remember that the only constant with a baby is change: one day is unlike the next.
For breastfeeding information and support contact a La Leche League Leader.
Photo credit: Isabelle Grosjean SA, Wikimedia Commons.
About Lisa Hassan Scott
Lisa Hassan Scott is a stay at home mother of three little ones, age 2, 6 and 9. An American living in Great Britain for over 15 years, Lisa is a Yoga teacher certified by the British Wheel of Yoga, and a La Leche League Leader. She blogs about mothering, breastfeeding, Yoga and the mind at http://www.lisahassanscott.co.uk. Follow her on Twitter: @lisahassanscott