Monday, August 10, 2009

A Day of Breastfeeding

Inspired by this post by Tarzan of HisBoysCanSwim, I decided to record when & how long I nursed for 24 hours. I thought it would just be interesting, I had no idea it would actually change my feelings about nursing while I was doing it. As lactivists, we often tell women to watch the baby not the clock. Turns out, that advice is even more important than I ever imagined.

I'm currently 5 months in to nursing my 3rd baby. I nursed my eldest for 34 months, albeit with a nipple shield for that entire time & with a 2 week nursing strike around 11 months. I nursed my middle son until I was about 16 weeks pregnant with my current baby. He was 40 months. In all that time, the only time I recorded how often I was nursing & for how long was when I was in the hospital after my first son was born. When I got home with him, I'd look at the clock sometimes to see how long he was eating for, but I grew out of that by about a month postpartum. Since then, I just nurse whenever my child seems like he wants to, for however long he wants to.

Yesterday, during my little recording experiment, I found myself worrying. I got anxious: "Maybe I'm nursing too often.", "Maybe I should wait longer." Thoughts I haven't had for years, since my oldest was a newborn. All these thoughts from me, the queen of going with the flow. I've had them a few times since I stopped recording, too. No wonder new parents are so anxious about how often, how long, how much.

If anyone is interested, here's what I recorded for my baby.

4:16pm - 4:40pm baby fell asleep

5:15pm - 5:20pm stirred, nursed, went back to sleep

5:49pm - 5:51pm

7:24pm - 7:28pm

7:39pm - 7:41pm

8:01pm - 8:16pm distracted/lots of breaks

9:13pm - 9:18pm i had to do some stuff quickly, so I cut things short

9:24pm - 9:31pm baby fell asleep

9:59pm - 10:03pm stirred, nursed, went back to sleep

10:57pm - 11:04pm

11:18pm - 11:28pm

11:54pm - 12am

12:50am - 1:10am baby fell asleep

1:40am-1:50am stirred, nursed, went back to sleep

2:35am - 2:58am took baby to bed for the night

5:59am - 6:16am

8:10am - 8:14am

another one very soon after didn't record times

10:37am - 10:42am

11:49am - 11:53am

12:13pm - 12:18pm baby up for the day

1:05pm - 1:25pm very distracted

2:15pm - 2:29pm baby fell asleep

2:54pm- 2:58pm stirred, nursed, went back to sleep for a little while

5:45pm - 6:06pm

After my little experiment, I'm even more of the belief that parents need to watch the baby, not the clock. Stop recording feedings (unless there's a genuine medical reason,of course), stop checking how long it's been or worrying about long enough or too long or too often. Some things just can't be measured and compartmentalized. Nursing is clearly one of them.


  1. Love this post! I never watched the clock, I believed L would get as much milk as he needed, and since he was nursing every 25 minutes in the beginning, I knew he was getting enough. I am also a lactivist and blog about it frequently. L is now 2 years and 9 months and still breastfeeds :)

  2. Wow, I could have written this, it sounds so much like our nursing pattern at 9.5 months - down to the nightowl sleep schedule!

    (My partner works 2nd shift, what's your reason?)

    I've actually been thinking about tracking it for a day, as well, but figure I'll also just start worry about whether she's "nursing too much."

    I might do it anyway, just out of curiousity.

  3. Guess I should have read the comments before I dm'd you. :) My excuse is just that I'm a night owl & I'm a homeschooler, so I can sleep when I

    It was interesting doing it. I knew I nursed a lot, mostly for short times, but I really had no idea it was anywhere near 25 times a day. All I knew was that the whole 8-12 a day thing was extremely low. I really, really wasn't expecting just paying attention to how often & how long would affect how I thought about nursing. I seem to be totally back to normal today, though.

  4. That's funny, I started to ask "What's your excuse?" but then was afraid it would come across sounding wrong :-)

    All things being equal, I think my body would run like to run this kind of late-night sleep schedule on its own, and Shrike has to because of work, so it works well - except when we want to do any baby-activities, which always seem to be scheduled for 10 am!

    As to the nursing schedule, I would be that Peeper nurses closer to 20/day than 12/day, especially if we count all the little 2-minute sips, and mid-sleep check-ins.

  5. Isn't it interesting how our healthy BFed babies eat at will if we let them and don't schedule them?
    My boys are so different, and I never worried about how often they ate--until I started to feel full and uncomfortable. Then I knew it was time! (At least for me!) It's so natural. They go at their own pace, take what they need, when they're breastfed. That whole nature thing.
    Welcome to the wild world of blogging! ;)

  6. I go with the flow too. Even when Lu was a newborn I didn't track her eating. Though I did track her diapers for a little while, just to make sure she was having enough wet ones.

  7. It's nice that so many others have written similar experiences in the comments to prove that this is NOT an unusual pattern! Add me to the list!
    No wonder people worry about it when we expect 8-12 times a day is the average.
    No wonder people who follow nonsense from books like Babywise (9 feeds/day maximum) have problems keeping up their milk supply.