To this end, I've started compiling a list of normal, even expected behaviors for breastfed babies of working mothers. Please note, some of these are common to all breastfed babies, whether mom SAH or WOH.
Breastfed babies will:
- Want to eat at least every two hours while they are awake, usually until past their first birthday.
Breastmilk digests quickly and easily - usually in about 90 minutes. Empty tummies = hungry babies. This is not an indication that he isn't getting enough - it's an indication that his system is functioning properly! Frequent nursing also helps maintain and stimulate mom's milk supply - it's a symbiotic relationship.
- Often want to feed constantly in the evenings, especially on weekdays (workdays).
This is a phenomenon known as cluster-feeding, and is thought to be a result of two factors. Psycologically, baby has been separated from mom all day long, is tired, and wants nothing more than to be comforted in his mother's arms. Physiologically, breasts have their slowest production in the late afternoon/evening hours - but - the milk that is produced tends to be higher in fat. Frequent feeding during this time allows baby to get as much of this higher fat milk as possible before bedtime - which may help baby to sleep for a longer initial stretch each night.
- Not sleep through the night consistently, for at least the first year.
It's hard to be a working mom with an infant who still wakes frequently - believe me, I know! However, fast digesting milk can leave a baby hungry well before morning. It is unreasonable to expect a breastfed baby to sleep through the night much before their first birthday. To maximize your rest, consider potential options such as co-sleeping (full or part time) or having baby sleep in your room in a bassinet, side-car style crib or other safe place. After their first birthday, if night waking is still very frequent, consider some gentle nightweaning techniques.
- Be able to drink several ounces of formula (or other liquid), after nursing.
Drinking from a bottle is much easier than nursing from the breast, and it's very easy to over-feed a baby via bottle. Think about it - is it possible for you to eat more after a satisfying meal? Sure, that's pretty much the definition of Thanksgiving, right? That doesn't mean you're not getting enough at your regular meals - and the same runs true for infants. The point is to satisfy their needs, not to fill them up as much as possible!
- Grow quickly their first 2 months, and then often more slowly then their formula fed peers from months 2-12.
Breastmilk is relatively higher in fats and lower in protein relative to cow's milk (the basis for most formulas). All that fat makes it great at growing babies with big brains but slower at growing big bodies. Baby cows, in contrast, need big bodies fast and small heads, which is why cow's milk has lots of protein and less fat. So, which are you growing, a human or a cow?
- Want to be held by mom more often.
Don't we all? Everything about mom is love - really, why shouldn't baby want to be held often? The difference is that it is easier for formula fed babies to be fed by others, or feed themselves, or have their bottles propped up for them, and that's how many learn to comfort themselves. Personally, I'd rather have my baby want to be comforted by a person than an object, wouldn't you?
If I'm missed anything obvious, please let me know and I'll add it. Also, a final note. Many parents (and especially grandparents) will see this list as a reason that formula feeding is more convenient or even better for baby. This is a hangover from the Victorian perspective that saw babies and children as an inconvenience - not small people with their own needs. In the millions of years of human evolution, babies have always been breastfed frequently, slept next to their parents, and been held much of the time by loving family or friends. It's how we ensured the safety and survival of our very helpless infants in a dangerous world. While these things might not fit well into your busy life of 2010, 150 years of artificial feeding and modern parenting techniques cannot erase eons of biological heritage. In short, babies are not meant to be convenient!