Before I tell you my reasons why I feed on demand I want to say that this is my opinion, it doesn’t mean it’s the right way, the only way or the way you have to do it. Every mama should do what’s best for herself and her baby. This is just how I feel and what works for us.
It is common to hear mamas sharing advice about how to get baby into a feeding schedule, especially at night.
It seems that many parents are eager to teach their children to stop eating at night so they can get more sleep. I get that, being a mom is tiring but when I had my baby I expected sleepless nights, after all babies need their mamas and milk constantly so why would I expect to be sleeping through the night? This thought helped me not to get frustrated about having to wake up at night.
I never expected my baby to behave like an adult. I know she doesn’t have “cravings” or eats because she’s just feels like it, she eats because she is hungry, so how I could deny it to her? How can I assume that just because she’s a certain age she should be sleeping through the night? Or that just because she’s a certain age she should be eating a certain amount of times? She’s a baby, all she knows is hungry and not hungry.
She’s an exclusively breastfed baby, her belly is small and she’s a baby that needs to see everything that’s going on around, which means that sometimes she doesn’t eat enough during the day and gets really hungry at night. In fact, I can tell when my baby didn’t nurse enough during the day because she will definitively make up for it at night. I’ve heard so many moms complaining about having to do night feedings, saying that their baby can’t eat this much at night and should be sleeping more. Some of the things I read that put things into perspective for me were Wakeful 4 Month Olds and Does your baby really need night feeds?
I let her eat on demand. Whenever she is hungry, day or night. I will continue to do so and follow her cues for as long as she needs it. I do have to admit, I have it easy because I breastfeed so I don’t have to prepare a bottle of formula, I just pop my boob out and her meal is ready! Co-sleeping has also many her night feedings much easier and because of this me and my husband are able to sleep more but that’s a post for another day.
“Experts say babies are born with a sense of how much food they need – and naturally stop eating when they are full. Giving them food at set times, when they may not be hungry, could over-ride this and lead to them piling on the pounds when they get older.” Source. So if you want your baby to learn to listen to her body and eat the amount she needs, feed on demand.
Another reason why I feed is demand is because I don’t know how much milk my baby is drinking and I don’t know the composition of my milk, so by letting her drink as much as she wants I know she’s getting the nutrition she needs. Also, the more your nurse, the more fat your milk has, and babies need fat for an optimal brain development. One post that is worth reading is The infant feeding schedule: Why babies benefit from being fed “on demand”. If you’re on the fence about how you should be feeding your baby this will answer most of your questions. Cue Feeding ~ Breastfeeding On Demand also offfers a great summary on why feeding on demand is best for baby and mom.
I’ve also noticed that my baby took her time learning how to eat and trying foods, and to this day, at 12 months, she doesn’t eat as much as other babies I know but I’m not worried because she’s nursing, so I know whatever she doesn’t get from food she gets from me. If she wasn’t nursing I would be really stressed out about this, but knowing that my breast milk changes and adapts to her needs over time has been another great reason for me to feed her on demand.
In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides (source):
29% of energy requirements
43% of protein requirements
36% of calcium requirements
75% of vitamin A requirements
76% of folate requirements
94% of vitamin B12 requirements
60% of vitamin C requirements
During the day, I offer her breast milk about every 2 hours. She gets too distracted and could easily not eat enough so I always offer her milk, it’s her choice if she takes it or not. And now that’s she old enough for solids, I offer her healthy wholefoods (she eats whatever we’re eating that day) and she eats the amount she needs.
I love knowing I’m giving her my all! I love that my daughter doesn’t have to cry because she’s hungry, ever. If my daughter ate an hour ago and she’s asks for more, I let her eat because if she’s asking for more, she is hungry and maybe she just needs the extra cuddles – and that’s ok too. I love that I can just offer her breast milk and know she will take it if she needs it. I love it that she will eat the food I offer her if she is hungry and wants to. Babies are smart, they will eat what they need…so I trust my baby.