I have tried to avoid the ‘fed is best’ vs ‘breast is best’ debate, but I can’t hold back any more.
I really dislike the statement ‘fed is best’ – it's condescending in my opinion. "Best" implies that there is an average or something in the middle that is just OK. Of course you must feed your baby, that’s a given. No parent starves their child on purpose. But if fed is 'best' what is the average or 'just OK'?
If its just ‘feed your baby’ why can’t you feed them vegetable or fruit puree from the beginning? Fruits and vegetables are natural, but they are not suitable for a newborn. Why? Because we are mammals, and mammal babies drink milk from their mammal mothers. Human breastmilk is designed for human babies. And if some reason you can't give your baby your milk you will need to go give them donor milk or formula.
I don’t care how you feed your baby, I really don’t. What I do care about is when people give you the wrong information and you make decisions based on this information, that you may not have made otherwise.
If you want to breastfeed and need help (or even just reassurance) then please seek advice from a QUALIFIED professional.
But know that your doctor is probably not an expert in breastfeeding. Your midwife might not even be an expert in breastfeeding. During my 1 year Postgraduate Diploma of Midwifery course we did a grand total of 8 hours breastfeeding education. As far as I’m aware doctors don’t have to do any (but they may have done some due to a personal interest).
Do you know who IS an expert in breastfeeding? An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. To be an IBCLC you have to do 90 hours of LACTATION specific education.
The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners logo - to call yourself an 'IBCLC' you have to meet the criteria set out by this organisation
Here are some common myths that you might hear and the truth
If your baby cries they are hungry
Babies cry for all sorts of different reasons. Yes, they might be hungry. They might also be tired. Or maybe they have a wet nappy. Or they are scared, or confused, or going through a leap, or who knows what other reason. Some babies just cry! But crying does not always mean they are hungry.
If you are concerned with how much your baby is crying and think it could be due to hunger please see an IBCLC
A sleeping baby is well-fed baby
Just like not all crying babies are hungry babies, not all sleeping babies are well-fed babies. Some say that babies will not starve themselves, but unfortunately this is not true. Some babies will just sleep because they do not have the energy to ask for feeding.
I would even go so far to say that a new baby that sleeps more than 3hrs at time may not be well fed....
If you are concerned that your baby is not taking enough please see an IBCLC
A baby should feed every 3 hours, not earlier (and if they do not settle for that time they are hungry)
Once your supply is well established, maybe. But some babies will continue to feed 2hrly, or 1.5hrly, or 2.5hrly. There is no set rules for feeding intervals in breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding should be ‘on demand’. And in the first 6 weeks, or sometimes even longer, frequent feeding is normal. Like I said above I'd be concerned if a newborn is only feeding every 3hrs (directly breastfeeding, with no top ups).
I work in neonatal ICU. Sometimes I do the ‘midwife/lactation consultant shift’ - where my role is look after the mothers and help with breastfeeding.
The other day I came on shift and a colleague stopped me in the corridor. “Please can you see baby abc’s mother – baby fed for almost 2hrs straight but only settled for 30mins. She expressed 40mls. I don’t think her milk has come in. She’s day 5”. Do you know what my immediate thought was? “Yeah, that sounds normal, what’s the issue? And if she can express 40mls then her milk is in...”
The issue was that in NICU we are conditioned to believe that babies should eat and then sleep for 3hrs at a time, because we don’t have time to be feeding babies every hour. So we put them into a schedule that suits us. And this might be a good thing for a sick baby who needs lots of rest. But it isn’t good for a breastfeeding baby, who is well. Which this baby was (the baby had had a minor procedure and was going home later that day).
So I went to assess this baby and I spoke to the mother about ‘normal’ newborn feeding. I helped her ‘tweek’ the attachment and gave her information on what to watch for to make sure the baby was getting enough. And I reassured her that frequent feeding in the first few weeks is normal. But I also told her that if she was concerned she should seek advice – from an appropriate professional.
Breastfeeding is also more than just 'feeding' - it is also about hydration and comfort.
If you are concerned that baby is feeding too often (or not enough) please see an IBCLC
You need to give the baby a bottle
Nope, you don’t. You can if you want to, but you do not HAVE to.
Some breastfed babies will just not take a bottle regardless of how much you try. Some babies will happily switch between breastfeeding and bottle. And some babies will take a bottle and then not want to go back to breastfeeding. You probably won’t know which type of baby you have until you try. But ideally you should avoid bottles for at the least the first 6 weeks. If you do need to top up after breastfeeds read this article on paced feeding
If your baby won’t go back to breastfeeding after having bottles please see an IBCLC.
Babies need to sleep through the night from xx weeks/months
Sleeping through the night is a milestone – one which does not have a time frame on it. Some babies will start to sleep through the night by themselves. Others will need help resettling themselves if they wake up overnight long into childhood.
And just like babies will cry for all sorts of different reasons, they will also wake up in the night for all sorts of different reasons – hunger, cold, hot, they woke up and needed a cuddle, they heard a noise and woke up, they’ve wet/dirtied their nappy, etc, etc.
Waking up in the night may also be a safety thing – no one really knows why SIDS occurs, but one theory is that a baby lacks the ability to wake themselves up if they get themselves into a bad situation. So a baby who wakes up in the night might be a good thing. But then they are awake and they might need help going back to sleep.
If we look at night waking from a feeding point of view babies only have small stomachs. They need to be feed frequently and this includes overnight. Anyone who has hand raised animals from birth will tell you that you need to feed them around the clock – so why would our babies be any different? Human babies are the most immature of all mammals – they are the most dependent on their parents, and for the longest amount of time.
Parenting is a 24 hour job – I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but its true.
If you are concerned about how often your baby is waking during the night please see an IBCLC
If you want to breastfeed your baby then get the right information and support
Fed is the minimum
Breast milk is biologically normal
Informed is best
Written by Justine from Cherished Parenting Services. If you want help with breastfeeding please contact me (0405427998 or firstname.lastname@example.org) or find an IBCLC near you here - www.lcanz.org