“I feel like I feed her every hour, but I just know she’s hungry. There are so many nights with little sleep, but it’s only a season, right?” These are the words I hear from my mom friend as she turns to smile and coo at her baby.
I nod my head and say something supportive and then our attention turns towards my son who spits up all over his car seat. My son who by today’s standards I did not “feed on demand.” My son who is now and was, a happy, thriving, growing baby who runs around like a typical crazy toddler today.
I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: I breastfed my son on a schedule. And you know what? If I hadn’t fed him on a schedule, I am certain I wouldn’t have breastfed him for 12 months. I’m also certain the crazy emotions I navigated postpartum would have put me overboard had I not had a schedule to fall back on when it came to breastfeeding my son.
We moms say “You do you, Mama, and what works best for your family,” but there were very few times I felt comfortable sharing with others that we breastfed on a schedule. Those few words “I fed on a schedule” just can’t convey everything that was heavy on my heart. Those few words carry so much more weight than many other moms realize.
Postpartum depression, hormones flying off the handle and nights when I just wanted to curl up in bed and turn down the baby monitor were real, dark nights for me. If it weren’t for a few close friends who walked me through the possibility of breastfeeding on a schedule, I know without a doubt I would have stopped breastfeeding and would have continued to battle depression during that first year.
When other moms hear me say I fed him on a schedule, many assume I fed him at a set time no matter what. Like he was in his room crying his head off and I’m sitting downstairs tapping my wrist, saying, “Nope, not for another five minutes.” I hate to burst your bubble, but that is not what I mean when I say I fed on a schedule. By using the clock and feeding him when he woke up, along with my baby’s cues, I understood if my son was hungry or if something else was wrong.
Knowing my son liked to eat every few hours for the first few months of his life literally saved my breastfeeding journey. If I thought he was hungry every time he cried and was expected to breastfeed him, I would have thrown in the breastfeeding towel way before the first year was over.
I fed my baby when I thought he was hungry. And I think you’ll find that moms who say they fed on demand will say the same thing, not that they breastfed every time their baby cried.
Moms have to find their journey when it comes to feeding their babies. So many factors come into play on the decisions we make. Who am I to criticize your decision?
The stereotypes that follow whatever philosophy you choose will continue to be there unless we learn to look at the mom’s parenting as a whole. And if her baby is healthy and happy, then who am I to say what you’re doing isn’t working? Clearly you know your baby better than anyone. Forget the mom in some Facebook group who told you that you were creating bad habits.
You do you, Mama.