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Breastfeeding on demand or by the hour – the pros and cons of the feeding regime

Which way to breastfeed to choose; by the mode (hours) or at the first request?

Almost every young mother who decided to breastfeed a baby is faced with a choice: what approach to feeding should she follow? The older generation in the face of grandmothers, adult relatives and some doctors insist that the child should suck his breasts by the hour. However, the Internet and other sources constantly receive information that the baby should receive the mother’s milk at the first request. What to choose: breastfeeding at the request of the child or by the hour? Let’s try to understand what is the essence of both approaches.

We read useful articles on the topic:

Feeding by the hour; relatively modern invention. This system of feeding appeared in the post-war Soviet period, when women, hardly becoming mothers were forced to go to work. Given the conditions of that time, this was simply a vital necessity, and, since the work schedule can not be adjusted to the needs of the child, it was necessary to do the opposite: to adapt the child under the mother’s schedule.

According to this approach, the child receives a breast with interruptions at three o’clock and sucks a maximum of 20 minutes. At night, the break between feedings is 6 hours.

Pros for feeding by the hour is not much and yet you can distinguish something:

  • Together with feeding by the hour, a clear regime of the day is built. It turns out that my mother knows exactly at what time the baby will suck the breast, and what it will be free. You can plan your day and weaning from home.
  • When the child adjusts to this mode of feeding, my mother will have a more peaceful night.

The disadvantages of such a system of feeding both for the nursing mother and for the crumbs:

  • Kids can hardly endure such long breaks without a breast, therefore in case of cries it is necessary to show steadfastness and be ready to distract the child, occupy it with something, switch attention.
  • In different feeding the baby can suckle the chest with different intensity, so in 20 minutes he can each time receive a different amount of milk. This leads to the fact that in some of the applications the child will not eat up, which means there will be less weight added and it will have to be supplemented with a mixture.
  • Mom increases the likelihood of problems with the chest. If the breast is not emptied in time, it overflows, which leads to such an unpleasant process as lactostasis (milk stagnation in the ducts). This is a very painful condition, accompanied by high fever. Sometimes you have to turn to specialists for help, because you can not separate the breast by yourself.
  • The most dangerous consequence of feeding by the clock is the extinction of lactation. The production of milk depends on the content of the hormone prolactin in the blood. This hormone is produced in response to sucking, so the more a baby sucks a breast – the longer a woman feeds. If the stimulation of the breast is not enough, milk begins to be produced less and less. Especially dangerous is the lack of prolactin in the first months, when lactation is just getting better. In those days, when feeding by the clock was a common scheme, most women were fed no longer than 6 months.
  • From a psychological point of view, feeding by the clock is also not useful for the baby. It turns out that the mother ignores the needs of the child, denying him the opportunity to receive the breast at the first cry. Suckling reflex of the child is satisfied only to a small extent, and this can form the habit of sucking a finger or a cam.


The disadvantages of this approach, although they exist, but they are not so weighty. All the negative aspects are more than eliminated and it depends, more likely, on the mood of the mother than on any objective reasons.

But the advantages of feeding on demand are very weighty and it is not wise to neglect them.

  1. If the baby is on natural feeding, you do not have to worry about weight gain and harmonious physical development, because the child is guaranteed to receive all the necessary nutrients.
  2. Such children are much less likely to have abdominal problems, since breast milk is a fully adapted food for the immature children's gastrointestinal tract. Babies receiving breasts at first request do not need to be doped with water and feed early, so their intestines work better and do not cause problems for either the child or the parents.
  3. For mother natural feeding - excellent prevention of possible problems with the breast. Since the breast is emptied in time, the risks of lactostasis are minimal.
  4. Without problems, lactation is established, which means that the lack of milk does not threaten anyone and mother can feed the baby for as long as she wants.
  5. Children who are naturally breastfed can be treated without a pacifier. Necessity in it disappears, because the sucking reflex of the child is fully satisfied with sucking on my mother's breast. Given that there is no consensus on the sucking of a pacifier, and it is still a foreign object for a child, the opportunity to give up a pacifier is a big plus.
  6. In general, babies, who receive breasts at first request, grow more calm and self-confident. Their needs are not ignored, they know that they can always get what they need from their mother.


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