Q: My question is basically, “Can I nurse my baby too much?” My son is 5 weeks old, and I nurse him an average of every 45 minutes to an hour. I am aware that he probably is not nursing for nutrition this whole time, but for comfort also. I enjoy nursing him and respond to him quickly by offering him my breast. However, I find myself confronted with many others that say he should be going two to three hours between feedings and that I am training him to “need” me. Others seem to think I should be training him to be “good” and not need me. I am confused. Am I making him a needy baby? Should I try to expand the amount of time between nursings?
A: It really is not possible to nurse a baby “too much.” One of the most beautiful things about breastfeeding is that you can’t force a baby to eat if they are not hungry, much unlike a bottle fed baby who can be coaxed to take a little more. You mention that your baby is 5 weeks old. In the first six weeks, there can be several growth spurts which cause a baby to increase their time at the breast, which in turn increases mom’s supply. Babies of this age who seem fussy can be said to be “missing the womb” where they enjoyed constant motion and warmth along with endless feedings.
Perhaps the baby will enjoy being carried in a sling at your side; this can free you up for other activities that can lull a baby to sleep. Needy babies are born, not made and the best thing a mother can do is respond to those needs. Independence and trust is fostered and encouraged when a baby feels secure and his needs are met. Psychologists and child development specialists agree that you can’t force a baby to achieve a higher stage of development before he is physiologically ready.
One thing to keep in mind is that babies frequently fuss when they get a large supply of foremilk as a result of frequent feedings. You don’t say that he is gassy or otherwise fussy but consider using one breast per feeding if that is the case. Occasionally moms with an ample milk supply and good let down find that their baby gulps at feedings and seems content for a while, showing signs of fussiness later which can be calmed by, you guessed it, feeding. Feedings at one breast per feed can increase the amount of fat-rich hind milk that baby gets, which in turn, makes a difference in their stool and their behavior. If you suspect this is the case, read more about foremilk-hindmilk imbalance.
One of my favorite stories to share with new moms with concerns such as yours is by Liz Baldwin, a La Leche League Leader from Florida, titled, So I Nursed Him Every 45 Minutes. She shares similar concerns and concludes that she did the best thing that she felt was needed for her child and she and her husband are really the only ones who needed to agree on that.
Good luck to you and keep up the good work. As long as you enjoy nursing your baby and meeting his needs, you will both be happy. Follow your heart.
By Mary Kay Smith
IBCLC, Lactation Consultant