I got a call from Ria. Her baby was not feeding properly, she said. I asked her about her child’s feeding habits. “I feed every two hours,” she said.
“And what if she wants food in between,” I asked. Ria had been giving her daughter glucose water whenever she cried in between feeds. No wonder her child did not feed well. Because Ria had been trying to regulate her feeding timings.
Ideally, Ria should not have had a feeding schedule at all. The best kind of schedule is to have a flexible “on demand” feeding programme. Some babies will want to be fed at intervals of 1½ – 2 hours, while others will go much longer between feeds (4 to 6 hours).
The scheduling of feeds, particularly in early lactation may disturb the normal biology of lactogenesis. The baby naturally regulates the intake of milk. And the amount of milk produced is according to his needs.
And, like all biological systems, the baby’s needs and the rate at which milk is transferred from the mother to the baby varies from person to person. In the beginning, there is no way one can fix schedules for the baby’s feeds. Until the baby’s feeding falls into a pattern.
The problem with Ria’s baby was that she was being given glucose whenever she felt hungry between feeds. And, so, she lost her appetite by the time of the next feed. As a result, Ria’s daughter was not putting on enough weight either.
Babies who are permitted to regulate the duration and frequency of their feeds, gain weight more quickly and feed longer than those who have arbitary rules imposed on them. Many babies terminate a feed spontaneously in under 10 minutes. But, those who have a slower rate of transfer, take longer than 10 minutes.
If you notice that you need to feed regularly with in less than an hour, this could be an indication that the baby is incorrectly positioned at the breast. You need help in improving your feeding technique.
Night feeds are convenient both to the baby as well as mother. They maintain a continuity of stimulus for milk production.
Prolactin is the hormone responsible for milk formation. Feeding at night helps to maintain an elevated prolactin level throughout. This prevents engorgement of the breasts. It also suppresses ovulation, contributing to the contraceptive effect of lactation.
However, the contraceptive effect of breast feeding is not entirely reliable. Night feeds provide the infant with a substantial proportion of his 24-hour intake. The younger the baby, the more likely he is to consume the same volume of milk during the the night as during the day. In fact, the baby is expected to be hungry at night and giving formula feeds may lead to suppression of lactation in his mother.