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  • Writer's pictureAnne Croudace

Feeding on demand, or keeping a routine?

Depending on the age and needs of your baby, demand feeding may be the way to go - even if only temporarily.

Let's be honest. Feeding on demand is exhausting and requires a different kind of selflessness than you probably ever had to live out before. But, dig deep, mama - you can do this. Your baby doesn't know you have a schedule to keep. They can't tell time and they don't know what "waiting" is. They don't understand anything but that they are hungry and their survival instinct is as strong as their cries. They may not recognize the psychological implications of the feeling of hunger, but after reading this post, you will!

The feeling of hunger and the speed at which it is satisfied will wire your baby's brain for the span of their life. Either they will learn to remain calm and feel secure with their caregivers, or they will learn to be anxious about whether or not their needs will be met. This can impact every area of their life.

Psychologists have found that a newborn baby who is left to cry (also known as the crying it out technique), especially when hungry, will develop deeply wired insecurities causing their brain to react with anxiety earlier and earlier when the hunger sensation is felt. This plays itself out in those babies who wake up hungry and go from zero to hysterical in a matter of moments. Those babies are telling you that they feel insecure and scared that their need for food will go unmet. The survival instinct causes them to panic as you can see when they move their heads back and forth quickly in a frenzied rooting response, looking for the breast or bottle when they sense it is near.

It doesn't last forever

So the good news is, this early trust-building phase doesn't last forever. As long as you meet your baby's needs quickly, and use your voice and touch to reassure baby that you are trying to help them, they will hear you and you will build and/or re-establish trust. You will know when you've done well with establishing trust, because your baby will begin to wait more calmly, naturally, as they hear your voice reassuring them, and they see you getting ready for their feeding.

This is not easy. You're exhausted. You're sleep deprived. You're recovering from birth. Your body aches and you probably are having a few uncontrollable (and TOTALLY normal) hormonal swings. Not helpful, right? Just keep in mind that this phase doesn't last forever. Focus on where you're at in the cycle, for now. You can do this. One feeding at a time.

And if you're convinced you cannot do this without help, that's ok too. You do you, mama. Don't let anyone tell you that getting help isn't acceptable. It means you're a GOOD MOM to reach out and get resources for yourself and your baby, when you need it.

Look for a Lactation Consultant or Breastfeeding Educator or Postpartum Doula in your area. If you need breastfeeding help in NYC, contact us for support.

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