Monday, January 27, 2014

Why Nursing and Feeding Schedules Don't Work

There are so many questions when it comes to raising a baby.  Those little blessings don't come with a manual on the best way to care for them or raise them after all!  There are all sorts of books on what to do, how to do it, ect.  I read many of them with my first child.  I was extremely rigid about certain things, that now I look back on after baby number four and laugh about!  One thing I have come to realize is that with quantity comes experience and knowledge.  I know tons more about child care, baby care, and most importantly nursing than I did with baby 1.

I was lucky with my first baby to be in a very pro nursing environment. I was the first woman in my family of two generations to nurse so I needed all the encouragement and instruction I could get.  I was taught all about the babies nutritional needs, how often they should be feeding, and most importantly how your breasts produce milk.

I would like to pass on a little advice to new or soon to be moms on nursing. 

I am very concerned about a certain movement in child rearing that focuses allot on infant feeding.  It promotes a rigid schedule of feeding in the hopes that it will make the baby sleep through the night.  It also promotes the idea that picking up a baby who is crying will teach the child that it can manipulate its parents.

This method has actually gotten the attention of quite a few health agencies, who after evaluating it have posted warnings that it can cause "Failure to thrive" in infants due to the feeding schedules, especially if the mom is trying to nurse her baby.

Also many of the women who use this method end up loosing their milk supply, cant produce enough milk as their baby grows, and end up switching to formula because the baby is not growing.

So I would like to give my advice on feeding schedules for breastfeeding moms.  I have successfully breastfed all four of my babies until they were a year or older.  They are all healthy as can be, no food allergies, active, and unfortunately for my nerves fearless.

I raised them by what would be probably labeled "attachment parenting".  When my baby cried, I picked it up, when my baby was hungry I fed it.  As a mommy you learn to listen to your babies cues. I could easily tell when my baby is hungry as apposed to just tired, or when my baby is in pain.  As the child grows into toddler hood I learned when they were just whining or wanting attention.  But in my opinion infants DO NOT manipulate people.  They cry when they need something, that is their only form of communicating their needs.  They cant send you smoke signals!

Now this was against all the advice of my grandma, she told me my children would grow into cowards who wouldn't be independent.  I wish!  My children are like little Vikings out to conquer and discover!  Even as just crawling babies they were off without me never looking back. 

But this post is about breastfeeding and why trying to schedule it out will ultimately make you fail.

First off breastfeeding is supply and demand.  The more often you nurse the more it stimulates milk production.  Also remember that a babies stomach is incredibly tiny at birth, requiring frequent feedings.  This is important especially at birth because with such a small body and such a small stomach the baby needs frequent nourishment to support its metabolism.  Also these frequent feedings to the newborn supply it with the essential colostrum, which is not only packed with calories, but even more essential  antibodies to help the baby immune system withstand the sudden assault of germs that the baby has never come in contact with before.

Next is that these scheduling methods never take into account that every baby is different, and every mommies breasts are different.  Some babies don't suck effectively, making them need a longer nurse every time.  Some mommies breasts don't let down milk effectively meaning she needs more time with a baby at the breast to get a proper feeding in.  Some babies stomachs are smaller than other meaning they need more frequent feedings because they don't get the same amount of milk as another baby with a bigger stomach.

And here is a problem I had.  I have large breasts, DD and huge nipples.  This causes its own set of problems with an infant and requires special positions for nursing a newborn so they can latch on effectively (football hold).  But even worse is that I have a ridiculous milk supply.  I can pump out 3 bottles from one breast when they are full!  This may seem like a dream for most women but there are problems with it.

First you have to understand breast milk.  The first milk your baby gets when it starts to nurse is the fore milk.  This is like skim milk with very little fat, as the baby nurses the hind milk comes down and that is like cream.  I have so much milk that all my babies would get is the skim milk and there would be so much that the baby would be full before getting any of the hind milk.  The reason this is bad is because the hind milk is what makes the baby feel full longer.  The fat keeps them satisfied.  One way to help you baby feel satisfied and get them more of that nice rich hind milk is to pump some milk out of each breast before feeding.  (warning, this can cause your milk supply to increase)But think of the mom on the schedule.  She is told she can only nurse for so long or the baby will be "manipulating" her.  This means that the baby may never be getting that rich hind milk and therefore always seem hungry and unsatisfied. 

Many women on these schedule programs who try to nurse end up failing, the baby isn't gaining weight and they are told they must start feeding formula.  The woman incorrectly thinks that she just "doesn't have enough milk"  but in reality she is just not feeding the way nature and God intended.  So she starts giving bottles and her milk supply drops even further.  Soon she just stops nursing.

The biggest problem with these programs is that they absolutely ignore growth spurts.  What is a growth spurt?  It is when the baby suddenly grows allot, either physically or the brain is developing at an increased rate.  Babies go through growth spurts allot during the first year.  Growth spurts usually occur at 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 9 months. 

So what happens during a growth spurt?  You will notice your baby wants to eat much more frequently, sometimes every hour.  We call this marathon nursing.  And it has a very important role.  The reason the baby is nursing this frequently is not only because it needs this extra nutrition to help it grow, but also because as a baby gets bigger it needs more milk DUH!  Bigger bodies need more energy to keep it going and growing, that means more milk.  And when a baby nurses very frequently it send the mommies breasts the message "make more milk"  Thus upping her ultimate milk supply to support the bigger baby.  Otherwise she's going to have a milk supply for a newborn and not a two month old.  But the schedule programs tell moms to ignore that and under no circumstances increase their feeding.  If they do then the baby will be manipulating them and learning that it can get what it needs.

You can see how these schedule programs set a baby up to fail to thrive and a mother to fail at breast feeding.  They are absolutely against letting the mother feed her baby the frequency it needs.  And what results is the mommy doesn't have that sudden uptick in milk supply to accommodate the increased nutritional needs of the baby.

If the mommy is formula feeding she doesn't have this problem as much because the formula can tells the mom exactly how much the baby should be eating for its age and weight.  It is not dependent on proper nursing to produce more and more milk for the growing child.

These schedule methods have been around for over a hundred years, and they just don't work for breastfeeding mommies.   Its simple anatomy folks, just the way our bodies are made as women.

I went through just this sort of thing after becoming very ill with a bad flu.  My milk supply plummeted so on my midwifes advice I went through marathon nursing for three days. I nursed every hour during the day, drank tons of water and Mothers Milk Tea which increases milk supply.  And magically my milk supply came back!

One thing that I read that seemed so ridiculous is that this program states that by picking your baby up when it cries, feeding it when its hungry, ect, you are letting it be a narcissist or turning your infant into one.

In Ezzo’s 2002 article, he says:

To the narcissist only self matters, and because his sense of self-importance is so grossly inflated, his feelings are easily hurt. When they do get hurt, when others thwart him or fail to give him the excessive, unearned respect he demands, he reacts with rage and seeks revenge.

I would like to say something here.  Who is a narcissist in this type of parenting.  We get pregnant and know that the baby is completely dependent on us for life, without us the baby will die.  But as soon as the baby is born we tell it that it must cater to our schedule, our expectations, and it must not wake us up in the night because WE need our sleep.  The real physiological and nutritional needs of the child are ignored as less important as the adults wish to sleep through the night.

Who exactly is being the narcissist here?

So I would like to speak directly to moms.  Your baby is not going to be a brat or a narcissist if you feed it when its hungry or cuddle it when it cries.  Babies need constant love, lots of cuddles, and lots of interaction to develop properly. This has been proven over and over in countless studies. Don't let some stupid book that has had hundreds of babies suffering from failure to thrive and has been censured by numerous medical, breastfeeding, and midwifery communities make you feel guilty or ashamed of loving your baby.  Enjoy your babies!  Love being a mom.  And give up the golden cow of sleeping through the night ok?  Your baby will sleep through the night, and you will get through it!

PS: I co-slept with my babies, not one died or even got rolled on and we slept great, and yes my husband and I were still able to have sex, that's how we got 4 kids after all! By age one each child was into their own bed happily sleeping the full night.

I fed my babies when they were hungry, we went through marathon nursing at growth spurts,  when my babies cried and needed comfort I picked them up.  When I was busy in the garden I wore them in a sling or their brother and sister played with them.  I had very contented babies that loved to play alone.  At a year they all went to their own beds just fine and they all sleep like rocks through the night.  My children all were happy and independent and still are, they are respectful and I get lots of compliments on their behavior.  Enjoy your babies ladies, and remember that they are BABIES!

The best childcare and nursing books that I have found are

The Nursing Mother's Companion - this book has it all and has so much knowledge that has been lost from generations of American women no longer nursing

Focus On The Family Baby & Child Care - great reference book through the teen years

Born To Love - Instinctive and Natural Mothering

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