What is ‘normal’ breastfeeding anyway?
One of my favourite things to write about is breastfeeding – mostly because it’s one of my favourite things to do, and also because I think we need to be writing and talking about it more to make it just an everyday part of life. I mean, it is just an everyday part of my life, but I still get quite a few double takes and shocked looks thrown my way when I breastfeed my toddler in public.
I haven’t always been a confident public-feeder – in the first few months after Little Miss was born I’d time our outings between her feeds, and if I did have to feed her while we were out and about then I hid in a parents’ room under a feeding cover. Nowadays – pffft! We feed wherever and whenever my little guy wants.
So that’s my normal… NOW. But I’ve had lots of different variations of normal in terms of breastfeeding my two kids.
What is normal anyway?
When Little Miss was born 3.5 years ago we had a rocky first 24 hours when she was completely unable to latch on, and had to be fed my colostrum through a syringe. She was born 3 weeks early, and I had a very long posterior labour which ended up with me being induced, then having an epidural, then her finally being born 48 hours after my waters had broken. We assumed that the trauma of the birth and her being 3 weeks early meant that she was a bit dazed and confused, and possibly still a little bit ‘under-done’ (I’m pretty sure that’s the actual medical term).
I kept putting her on the boob in the hope that she would figure it out, and eventually she did (hallelujah!), and our awesome breastfeeding journey began. In the first month she fed every 2 hours, day and night, then slowly started to stretch her feeds out to 3 hourly around the 2 month mark. From 3-6 months she fed every 3 hours during the day, and slept 12 hours overnight (with a dream feed at 10:30pm). She took about 20 minutes to feed, drinking from both sides, and rarely needing ‘top ups’ in between her 3 hourly feeds. She was like clockwork, and a bit of a dream baby really.
When the Stuntman was born, he was a different kettle of fish altogether. He fed every 1.5-2 hours day and night for the first THREE MONTHS of his life, meaning neither of us had any more than 2 hours sleep in a row for the first three months. It. Was. Hell.
We also had his Upper Lip and Tongue Tie to contend with. After three months he calmed down a bit (by this stage we’d figured out he had CMPI), but he never fell into a set routine like his sister had. He fed completely ‘on demand’ – sometimes 7-8 feeds a day, sometimes 12! And never going longer than 3 hours between feeds. He only ever took one side at a sitting, but often demanded the other side within the hour. After having such a dream run with my first baby, this little guy was a complete shock to my system!
But it turns out his breastfeeding behaviour was just as ‘normal’ as his sister.
Dr Jacqueline Kent from the University of Western Australia conducted some fantastic research into what constitutes ‘normal’ when it comes to breastfeeding, which will hopefully go a long way towards easing the stress that a lot of new mums feel.
The study looked into the breastfeeding behaviours of full term babies aged between 1 and 6 months who were exclusively breastfed on demand and growing in accordance with the WHO growth charts.
The study found:
- The number of breastfeeds ranged from 4 – 13 per 24 hours
- It is very common for one boob to produce more milk than the other (don’t I know it – I’ve got a full cup size discrepancy between mine!!)
- The average length of a breastfeeding session ranged from 12 – 67 minutes
- 30% of bubs take one breast only each feed / 13% always take both breasts / 57% take either one or both at different times of the day
- Majority of babies – 64% – fed both day and night, with ‘night’ classified as between 10pm – 4am
- Boys drink more than girls, on average 831ml by boys and 755ml by girls per day
- The amount of milk a breastfed baby drinks can range from 478ml per day to a whopping 1,356ml per day!
Breastfeeding is a completely personal relationship between each mother and each child. As my experience shows, you can have two completely different experiences with your children, and yet they are still completely ‘normal’ breastfeeding experiences.
Check out this cool infographic illustrating the key findings of the research.
For more info about the breastfeeding research visit the Medela website.
What surprised you most about the findings?
Did you know that feeding up to 13 times a day was ‘normal’??
What breastfeeding info do you think could’ve helped you?