The many decisions of how to parent a newborn can be overwhelming -- breast or bottle, co-sleep or crib, rock to sleep or let him "cry it out." Trying to decide whether to breastfeed your little one on demand or keep him on a tight schedule is one of those tricky decisions, but learning how the experts feel along with the benefits and drawbacks will help you reach a decision.
What the Experts Say
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), World Health Organization (WHO) and Mayoclinic.com all state that moms should breastfeed their babies on demand -- as often as babies want, day and night. It is impossible to spoil your baby by breastfeeding on demand, according to the AAP, and your little one will actually benefit from learning that his needs are regularly met. WHO states that demand feeding also contributes to earlier hospital discharge for low-birth-weight infants.
Benefits of Demand Feeding
If you're a working mom and have to pump during the times when you're away from your child, Mayoclinic.com states that you should breastfeed on demand whenever you are with your child to increase your milk supply for the times when you pump. According to biological anthropologist and science writer Gwen Dewar, women's breasts vary in the amount of milk that they can produce during one feeding session. The more your baby is allowed to nurse, the more milk the breast will produce to meet your baby's needs, which helps you establish a sufficient milk supply and ensure that your baby gains weight quickly.
Drawbacks of Scheduled Feeding
According to an article published in the 1998 "AAP News," the official news magazine of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a scheduled breast feeding program that is too ridged is connected with failure to thrive, poor milk supply and involuntary early weaning. Since some women need to nurse more frequently to maintain a healthy breast milk supply for their little ones, spacing out feedings can decrease milk supply, which may cause a baby to lose interest in breastfeeding or lose weight quickly.
Making it Work
While feeding on demand is best for your baby, it can be exhausting for you -- especially during the first four to six weeks when your little one is feeding frequently. Dewar provides advice for new mothers to make sure they are taking time to relax during the postpartum period, suggesting moms enlist help with meals, shopping, housework and transportation of other children. Be sure to take naps whenever possible, turning off your phone so that you have minimal interruptions. Stock your freezer with easy to prepare meals or order takeout, to relieve yourself of some of the cooking duties. Rest while you nurse by nursing while lying down as your baby lies on his side.