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  • Writer's pictureShruti GOCHHWAL

Breastfeeding: What is Responsive Feeding?

It is the job and a natural instinct of a mother to provide and attend to all her baby’s emotional and physical needs and ensure complete well-being of the baby. Responsive breast feeding is a measure taken by a mother where she actively breastfeeds her newborn whenever it needs to be fed, while providing physical and emotional comfort during each feeding session. This act creates a close biological and emotional connection between her and her child.

Should Breastfeeding Be Regulated?

Feeding only should be initiated when the baby is hungry or shows signs of hunger and just be continued until the baby is satisfied. The trick is to master the technique of knowing whenever your baby is hungry to ensure that he or she is not underfed.

Imposing a limit or strict schedule is not advisable.

Here’s why:

When the baby is born, his or her tiny stomach requires a very less amount of milk. However, the baby is continuously growing everyday.

This means that his needs and quantity requirements keep changing- In time, the feeds become more frequent and for a longer duration of time.

This makes it difficult to determine the right amount of milk or feeding that is needed.

Thus, feeding the baby whenever he or she is hungry is a more reliable method to ensure that the right amount of nutrition and nourishment is received at that stage.

The mammary glands glands get stimulated and produce milk based on the suckling movements on the nipples. Thus, letting the baby feed at his or her own time will also avoid too much or too little production of breast milk.

The amount of milk production is directly proportional to the suckling response – this means that if a baby suckles more, more milk will be produced.

Lastly, different babies extract milk from the breast at different rates. In addition to this, the quantity and nutritional content in the milk produced continuously keeps changing.

Therefore, it is advisable to allow the newborn to take its own time and decide when it is full.

baby, mother

Signs to look out for, Credit: Needpix

When to Feed: Signs to Look Out for

Every baby reacts differently when he or she is hungry. The mother should always keep a watchful eye and stay observant in order to look for cues. Most mothers claim that they can have a natural instinct that effectively attends to all her baby’s needs.

Some of the most common signs includes:

  1. Rooting

  2. Waving

  3. Crying

  4. Murmuring

  5. Wriggling

  6. Constant eye movements

  7. Sucking fists

  8. Increased alertness

Emotional and Biological Benefits

●    For the baby

Skin-to-skin contact while responsive breast feeding stimulates feelings and sensations. As a result, the body releases hormones that help regulate body temperature and glucose levels in the blood. It also helps the baby cope with pain or any initial feeling of loneliness by reducing the stress hormone, cortisol.

When a mother responds to her baby’s needs and satisfies his hunger, the baby starts to feel a sense of reassurance and comfort.

●    For the mother

Breastfeeding has some stress-related benefits for mothers. The release of oxytocin during lactation also has a calming effect.

It also helps the uterus to return back to its normal size and reduce excessive postpartum bleeding.

Father, mother, baby holding

Emotional bonding, Credit: Wallpaper flare

Alternative: Responsive Bottle Feeding

Bottle Feeding is a process in which milk is pumped out from the nipples and into a bottle, is fed to the baby.

In order to proper responsive feeding, the same feeding cues should be observed and followed just as breastfeeding.

The advantages of bottle feeding include:

  1. For working mothers who are not present to feed their baby.

  2. An opportunity for the father to feed his infant and form bonds and connections.

  3. Avoiding exposure of breast in public areas when the baby is hungry and needs to be fed.

  4. Eases out the pain and pressure on the nipples that may have previously been swollen and tender.

  5. Allows collection of breast milk for mothers that have problems with effective stimulation and lactation.

  6. Allows the parent to sit comfortably in any good and comfortable position.

Note: Know when your baby is full- It is important to determine when the baby is full and stop in order to avoid overfeeding and risk the problems that come with it.

Bottom Line

Responsive breast feeding ensures that the baby receives the necessary quantity of milk, cries less, gets proper nourishment and is significantly happier and satisfied. It also ensures that the mother produces enough milk and prevents the breast from becoming too full.

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