Successful Breastfeeding Blog
Evidence based advice, support, and education for modern families.
Picture the following scenarios...
Scenario One: You’re meeting someone you love for dinner. You’re having such a good time with them you’ve barely touched your food or sipped your drink. The server comes by after 15 minutes to take away your salad and water and puts down your steak and potatoes. Another 15 minutes goes by, laughing and catching up. The server returns, takes your barely touched food, and leaves the check. You’re still hungry! What’s going on here! You were just enjoying a leisurely meal with a loved one!
Scenario Two: You just woke up and you’re STARVING. You sit down to a breakfast buffet. There’s plenty of food and you can eat all you want. You go to town and after a few minutes, you notice you’re feeling pretty full. You nibble on a few more things, then get up to leave the table. The server comes by and informs you that you have to keep eating for another 20 minutes. You explain you’ve had all you want and you’re full! He tells you it doesn’t matter, and keeps poking you, even putting an ice cube on your bare skin to “wake you up” to eat more food. You’re mad. This isn’t a nice meal.
Scenario Three: You’re one of those people who prefers six small meals a day to three large ones. If you go for large meals, you feel bloated, or maybe your acid reflux flares up. You feel better and have more energy if you eat less food more often. But that server is back, telling you that you have to finish a large meal. You explain to him that you prefer small frequent meals. He tells you this is the way it is, as you struggle to clean your plate. Later that day your stomach feels bloated and your acid reflux is terrible, with painful burning in your stomach and throat.
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Almost every parent I’ve ever talked to has been told by SOMEONE that their baby needs to eat x amount of time per breast. 15 and 15, 20 and 20, the numbers vary. Some of the reasoning they were given is “They won’t get enough food if they don’t nurse that long,” but heaven forbid they nurse longer than that. “They’re just using you as a pacifier. They’re burning more calories than they’re taking in.” I want to say this very clearly. For a healthy term baby, TIMED FEEDINGS ARE HARMFUL. They should literally NEVER be on a timer to eat and I’ll go over some of the reasons why.
“So if I’m not supposed to time feedings, what should I do?”
Babies don’t come with a manual! Learning the language your baby speaks takes time and practice for every new parent. Learn these cues. Watch for diaper output. Baby should have frequent, loose, yellow, seedy stools after Day 5 of life. TRACKING feedings is perfectly fine if it makes you feel better - how frequently and for how long. Listen to your baby, hear what they’re telling you, respect their “no”, and recognize when they’re asking to keep nursing. Don’t switch them off a breast that isn’t empty. Listen for swallowing. If someone tells you to time a feeding, ask why. If it's any of the reasons above, or if there’s an actual problem, find an experienced IBCLC (shameless plug) to do a full assessment on both of you. It may just save your breastfeeding relationship!
I'm Kelly Maher Carvell, Successful Breastfeeding LLC's founder, and lactation expert. I've made it my personal mission to reach as many parents as possible (like you!) to prepare you for your Successful Breastfeeding Journey. Thank you for allowing me and my team to support you. Before you leave the blog grab one of my FREEBIES like my Prenatal Success Kit or the Pump More Milk for Your Stash Guide. You've got this and I'm here to help!
Kelly Maher, CLC, CLE
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