Intuitive Breastfeeding - A Stress-Free Introduction
Photo by @ablondegirlsjourney
Breastfeeding is unfortunately often marked by pressure and fear. More and more mothers report the fear of not being able to breastfeed or giving up breastfeeding early due to problems. Complaints about pain are not uncommon. Yet, the female body is naturally designed for this: giving birth to babies and nourishing them. Thus, breastfeeding should ideally be characterized by ease and fulfillment. In this article, we will show you how to master the breastfeeding period in a relaxed and worry-free way: through intuitive breastfeeding.
What is intuitive breastfeeding? Intuitive breastfeeding is a method where mothers rely on their own intuition and the signals from their baby to determine when and how often to breastfeed, instead of sticking to rigid feeding schedules. It emphasizes the natural, instinctive relationship between mother and child and supports an individual and flexible approach to breastfeeding.
In this article, we will explain what intuitive breastfeeding means and how we can find our way back to it.
The Estrangement from Our Natural Intuition - How Today’s Society Shapes Breastfeeding
With today’s fast-paced society, the importance of breastfeeding is often misunderstood or overlooked. With progress and the constant growth of technologies, our connection to nature and the natural aspect of breastfeeding has been pushed to the background. Breastfeeding is more than just nourishing a newborn – it is an act of deepest trust, connection, and love.
Pressure and False Expectations
All too often, mothers feel pressured by society due to unrealistic expectations placed on them. Many mothers feel insecure and doubt their ability to provide their child with what they need. But the truth is: No one knows your baby better than you do! And no one can replace your natural intuition as a mother.
In modern times, people increasingly live outside of large family units. For instance, I never saw my mother, my aunts, or other relatives breastfeeding their children before I became a mother myself.
The Resurgence of Intuitive Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is the natural way to feed your child and should be seen and promoted as such. However, this doesn't mean you should feel bad if you feed your child with a bottle - whether for medical or personal reasons.
Nonetheless, it's time that we free ourselves from false notions and expectations and return to our roots. Thus, we can learn to trust our intuition and recognize and respect the unique rhythm of our child.
Mindfulness with oneself is crucial in intuitive breastfeeding. By listening to ourselves, we can better address our needs and the needs of our child. We should allow ourselves to make mistakes and learn from them. This is the true beauty of intuitive breastfeeding – it's about building and strengthening a relationship with your child, while also nurturing a relationship with yourself.
By honoring our intuition and celebrating breastfeeding in its most natural form, we can build a mindful, loving, and healthy relationship with our children. It's time we relearn to trust ourselves and make the breastfeeding process as natural and intuitive as it was originally meant to be.
What is Intuitive Breastfeeding?
In intuitive breastfeeding, sometimes also referred to as instinctive breastfeeding, it's about trusting the natural abilities of mother and child to develop a harmonious breastfeeding relationship. The focus is on your own instincts as well as the signals from your baby, disregarding rigid rules and schedules. The main focus also lies on natural latching without crazy breastfeeding positions, plenty of skin-to-skin contact, and relying on innate reflexes.
I remember how, a day after the birth of my first child, I received a note on which I was supposed to document our breastfeeding times. I was supposed to breastfeed every two hours, a half-hour per breast. "How strange," I said to my husband. "We're not robots." After the first few breastfeeding sessions, we crumpled up the note and threw it in the trash. I didn't want to let my baby go hungry if it wanted to feed in less than two hours, nor did I want to get stressed if he didn't ask for food exactly every two hours. I never looked at the clock, breastfed on demand, and switched breasts in a way that felt right to me.
I'm glad I listened to my instinct, but I know that many mothers are unsettled by such rigid guidelines. And that's how breastfeeding problems arise where there needn't be any. A healthy breastfeeding relationship cannot be based on rigid rules, coercion, and stress.
If you still need help and support, professional breastfeeding consultants are exactly the right people to turn to. You can also find numerous resources and videos online, like this one from the WHO, which can provide valuable input. Nathalie Pulcini is a breastfeeding consultant who answers many questions about breastfeeding in her course "Confident Breastfeeding."
The Baby's Signals - How Often Should I Breastfeed?
Intuitive breastfeeding is about feeding your baby when it seems hungry, not because it is time. Need-oriented in this context also means that you may offer your baby the breast if it is engorged and you are in pain. If you observe your baby for a while, you will soon see typical hunger and satiation signals from your baby:
Hunger Signals in Babies
- Licking lips, opening mouth, smacking: These can be typical signs that your baby is slowly getting hungry
- Rooting reflex: When you gently touch your baby's cheek, it turns its head to the side and opens its mouth. This rooting reflex, also called the nipple reflex, is a clear sign of hunger.
- Restlessness and squirming: Before a baby starts crying from hunger, you can often observe restlessness.
- Clenching fists: Another sign of emerging hunger is when your baby clenches its hands into little fists and brings them to its mouth.
Satiety Signals in Babies
- Letting go of the nipple: When your baby is full, it will let go of the nipple on its own.
- Relaxation: Your baby will look relaxed and content once it is full. While the hands are often clenched into fists during breastfeeding, they will slowly open and relax.
- Falling asleep: Many babies fall asleep as soon as they are full. However, this may also simply mean that your baby needs a break and may want to drink more after resting.
Flexible and Adaptable
Intuitive breastfeeding primarily means being flexible and adaptable. It's important to understand that your child's needs will change over time and that breastfeeding does not follow a set pattern. Intuitive breastfeeding brings us back to the natural connection between mother and child, enhances the bond, and supports the child's growth and development in a healthy and natural way. It allows mothers to trust in their strength and ability to nourish and care for their children.
How Long Should I Breastfeed My Child?
Here too, the principle is: trust your intuition and listen to your needs. How long a mother breastfeeds her child should be decided by these two alone. The WHO recommends breastfeeding due to its multiple health benefits for up to two years or longer.
When my first son was born, I said: "I will breastfeed for one year, then that’s enough." Within the first six months, I abandoned that thought. More and more, I noticed how good breastfeeding was for both of us. Our bond was and is very close, and breastfeeding helped him through various life stages. It was his comfort in sadness, his pain relief in injuries, his moment of peace for relaxation and falling asleep, and much more. Shortly after his third birthday (by which time his little sister had arrived), we decided together that it was enough. By that point, he was self-weaning and only breastfeeding for about 10 minutes in the evening to relax.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding
We do not intend to overshadow mothers who turn to formula feeding for pressing reasons with this article. You are also doing a great job! Nevertheless, it is a fact that breastfeeding offers incredibly many advantages, for example:
- Breast milk always contains precisely the nutrients your child needs at the moment.
- Breast milk is an important source of antibodies and strengthens the immune system. This natural protection can significantly reduce the risk of allergies, asthma, and other health problems in childhood and adulthood.
- Strong mother-child bond
- Health benefits for the mother: It helps the uterus return to its normal size faster after birth and can lower the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Moreover, breastfeeding can also help to alleviate postpartum depression.
- Cost savings and sustainability: Breastfeeding is the most environmentally friendly way to feed your child.
- the mortality rate among breastfed infants in the first five months is 14 times lower
- the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) is reduced by half already by two months of breastfeeding by half
- the risk of obesity decreases by 26 percent
And these benefits are just a small excerpt of the positive effects of breastfeeding.
Breast Milk Stool - what goes in must come out
As breast milk stool is referred to as the stool excreted by an exclusively breastfed baby. Newborns excrete about 20 times per day urine and produce at least one diaper full of breast milk stool. The stool of a breastfed baby is usually not solid, mustard-colored, and water-soluble. It is not uncommon, however, for it to come suddenly and in large amounts, thus bursting the odd diaper.
Judes - Reliable, Even with Breast Milk Stool
We at Judes have developed a cloth diaper that fits every stage of your child's life and is just as easy to use as a disposable diaper. Thanks to the optimal fit, Judes always sit snugly against your baby's skin without constricting.
This way, even breast milk stool stays reliably in the diaper and can - due to its characteristics - end up in the wash along with the diaper. If needed, you can still use our Poo-Paper, which lies as the top layer in the diaper, catches your child's stool and is then disposed of with it.
Tip: If stains from the breast milk stool remain in the diaper after washing, you can simply leave the Judes in the sun for a few hours to bleach them. However, any discoloration is absolutely hygienic and not a concern.