Breastfeeding

What daily life is like with a breastfed baby

There was no such thing as a typical day with a breastfed baby, especially in the beginning, and suggestions that there should be were not helpful for most women. From the women's stories it became obvious that things were always changing. They changed from hour to hour within the day and from day to day as their baby went through growth spurts*1 (see below) and fed more frequently, grew older and fed less frequently, began to take an interest in other foods, when the weather was very hot, or when the baby was ill. 

Several women used the phrase 'go with the flow' in terms of daily life*2, particularly in the early days, and mentioned the need to be with their baby and conversely the need for their breastfed baby to be with them both day and night. Several women talked about making a clear distinction between day and night by keeping night time feeds very low key (see 'Breastfeeding during the night'). Many women spoke of gradually finding a balance between being led by their baby's needs and the introduction, as their baby grew older, of a few simple family habits around bath and bedtime for example. A few women, most of whom were mixed feeding, set up a more prescriptive pattern very early on because it suited their lifestyle. One woman was surprised at how much time breastfeeding a baby can take and spoke of sorting out her priorities. She talked about getting over-tired with a toddler and a new baby in the house until she adjusted her expectations of what she could realistically fit into a day (see 'Emotional and psychological aspects of breastfeeding'). Lizzie’s exhaustion mainly resulted from her efforts to feed her baby exclusively on breastmilk despite very low milk supply.

Some women described a period during the day, usually in the evening, when their baby wanted to feed more frequently*3. Some women spoke of days when their baby was unsettled or poorly and seemed to just want to breastfeed all of the time. Several women talked about keeping a record of what their baby was doing as a way of sorting out possible patterns or showing that things were not as bad as they thought (see 'Feeding patterns in the early days')

Many women said that there was more to breastfeeding than providing their baby with breast milk. Sometimes their baby wanted to feed quickly because he/she was hungry and sometimes their baby wanted what the women identified as 'comfort feeding' which was when their baby was not obviously sucking to get milk and satisfy hunger but was engaged in a more leisurely suck for comfort. The women quickly learned to recognise the different types of breastfeed.

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Many women described days when their baby wanted to feed frequently for no apparent reason and they called these periods 'growth spurts' and reasoned that the baby was building up their milk supply.

*Footnote 1: Growth spurts are periods when the baby suddenly wants to breastfeed more frequently. They usually occur at about two or three weeks, six weeks and three months of age, last for a day or two and result in an increase in the mother's milk supply.

*Footnote 2: Breastfed babies have a wide range of normal feeding patterns and a healthy baby who attaches well and enjoys unrestricted breastfeeding will soon find his/her own pattern. There are health benefits for both mother and baby of frequent, unrestricted breastfeeding in the early days.

*Footnote 3: Breastmilk is constantly changing to meet a baby's needs both in terms of makeup and volume. Most women will feel fuller in the morning than the late afternoon and early evening when a baby usually wants to feed more frequently.

Last reviewed September 2015

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