The early days of newborn feeding are often difficult whether you choose to breast or bottle feed your baby. Historically parents were taught to subscribe to rigid feeding schedules with incremental increases in volume of milk intake over the first couple of weeks at specific time intervals. But what if your baby is fast asleep and pushing your nipple or the bottle away? Or what about the baby seems hungry even though its only been an hour since the last feed? The latest research has indicated that bypassing the often unpredictable ‘on-demand’ feeding patterns that most newborns gravitate to can have unwanted short- and long-term effects. For one, babies need to gain weight after discharge from the hospital and sometimes that is accomplished by frequent small feeds especially in the early days of breast feeding. Alternatively, forcing older babies to eat more when they aren’t hungry can, over time, cause them not misunderstand their body’s natural hunger and satiety (fullness) signals and can increase the risk of obesity. Thus, the AAP (American Association of Pediatrics) recommends ‘responsive feeding’. Responsive feeding is learning your baby’s cues for hunger, and for being full, and responding appropriately to those cues. Over the first couple of weeks with your newborn, you will start to learn their hunger cues and grow attuned to the nature of their cry and be able to differentiate hunger from other newborn needs. Hospitals have realized how ‘unnatural’ this can seem to us, so in most of the hospitals now there are pictures in the postpartum room showing examples of early and late hunger cues. It is much easier to both nurse and bottle feed an infant when we catch them early into a hunger cue. As infants grow and start eating solid foods, they often want to graze and don’t subscribe to a typical adult feeding schedule.
The truth is, we form healthy and unhealthy habits early on. The earlier we can teach our littles of eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full the better for the long run. Remember, this process doesn’t have to be perfect. The more you practice the easier it will be to read your little ones signals 😊