Schedule and art of feeding

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I. Schedule

The feeds should be offered on a semi-demand schedule basis. The baby should be fed based on the needs and demands of the baby, keeping in mind that most babies would need to be fed after every 2-4 hours, and not strictly clock wise.

II. Recognize early signs of hunger

Babies often indicate their willingness to feed by:

  • awakening from sleep
  • increased alertness
  • turning their head towards the mother or even the sheet wrapped around them
  • mouthing activities or by sucking their fingers.

Parents sometimes feel that an infant needs to be fed only when the child cries. Crying is a late signal that the baby is hungry. Mothers need not wait for the baby to cry before offering a feed.

III. Positioning the baby

Any position in which the mother and baby are comfortable are good enough for proper breast-feeding. The mother should sit up comfortably and keep the baby’s head slightly raised and offer alternate breasts at each feed. The baby should be supported from beneath his shoulders and not beneath the head.

IV. Attachment at the breast

The mother touches the baby’s cheek or side of the mouth to her breast to stimulate the baby to open his/her mouth and turn towards the nipple. She can help position the areola and the nipple into the baby’s mouth. The baby should form an effective seal around both the areola and the nipple to eject the milk from milk pouches behind the areola. If the baby sucks only at the nipple, the milk is not ejected. When the baby does not get sufficient milk, he sucks more vigorously resulting in sore nipples.

V. Only a few sucks and your baby sleeps

During the first few days, most of the babies fall asleep after taking only a few sucks at the breast. They should be kept aroused by gentle tickling behind the ears or on the soles during the feeds but this ritual should not become unpleasant or annoying to the baby.

VI. Interact actively with your baby

The mother must actively interact with her baby and intently look at her child during breast-feeding. It is not a dull and passive ritual. Thebaby enjoys the motherly touch, feels the warmth, contact and cuddling. It is an instantaneous way to connect to your baby.

VII. Baby is sleepy in the middle of feeds

If your baby starts getting lazy and sleepy right in the middle of taking feeds, as evidenced by the reduced force and the frequency of sucks, the mother should gently try to remove her nipple when the baby would wake up and start sucking again with renewed vitality.

VIII. Duration of each feed

The duration of breast feeds is extremely variable. In the first few days, a baby might feed for only a few minutes and appear satisfied.  In general, most babies take 15-20 minutes to take an adequate feed. Some are satisfied with one breast, others may need to suck at the other breast as well. Continue each feed as long as the baby wants.

Once the flow is well established, some infants may be satisfied feeding just on one side for as little as 5-7 minutes. Occasionally a baby demands the breast not for the milk but only for comfort. In that case the baby might just suckle for a few minutes and appear satisfied.

IX. Allow emptying one breast before offering the other

The composition of milk also varies during the phase of feeding.

  • Foremilk is the milk produced at the start of the feed. It is watery and is rich in proteins, sugar, vitamins, minerals and water. 
  • Hind milk comes later towards the end of a feed and is richer in fat content and provides more energy.

For optimum growth, the baby needs both the fore and the hind milk. Therefore, the baby should be allowed to empty one breast completely before being put onto the other breast.

X. Offer alternate breast at the next feed

Alternate breast should be offered first at every other feed, if the baby has sucked only from one breast in the last feed.

XIProlonged gaps between feeds

Some babies are lazy. Babies often have one prolonged gap of 4-5 hours between their feeds. This is acceptable. Most of the times however, if the baby has not had a feed for 3-4 hours, the mother can try to gently awaken the baby and try to feed the baby. A baby can be awakened for a feed by unwrapping the baby, gently touching or stroking the baby’s cheek, changing the diaper or rubbing the feet.

XII. Midnight feed

Most babies demand a midnight feed during the first 4-6 weeks of age, after which their feeding schedule is established satisfactorily and they are satisfied with one late night feed and an early morning feed.

  1.  Burping after each feed

The mother must make the baby burp after each feed to prevent regurgitation