When I was pregnant, I was told to breastfeed on demand, whenever the baby would let me know that she was hungry. That made sense to me and I did not think that it would be a big deal. Back then, I imagined a peacefully sleeping baby, who wanted to nurse every few hours and then sleep again. Boy, was I ever wrong.
For the first few weeks after Livi was born, I felt like I was feeding her around the clock; she just wanted to nurse All. The. Time.
I would feed her for forty to sixty minutes (sometimes longer) and eventually, she would fall asleep. Ten minutes to an hour later, she was up again crying. Since I had just fed her, I did not think she needed to nurse again so soon. I tried everything I could think of to calm her but nothing worked. When I ran out of options and could not think of anything else to do, I tried to nurse her again, and sure enough, Livi calmed down and happily suckled away.
Looking back now, I know that she was not drinking the whole time. She also wanted the close contact that breastfeeding could give her. The nursing was not only her source of food but also a way to soothe her. If that’s what it took to make her feel more comfortable and secure in this world, then that’s what I was going to give her.
Overall, it worked well for us. However, there is one thing I had to learn the hard way. While nursing very frequently was something Livi needed to settle into life, she also needed a mom who was able to take care of her. More than once I made the mistake and ignored the signs of exhaustion just so I could offer Livi another feeding she desperately wanted.
There comes a point where you need a break. Thankfully, I have a very supportive husband who more than once took over when he came home from work so I could get some rest.
Livi never followed a feeding schedule and she still doesn’t. For the most part, we got used to it. However, it does make outings more difficult. So whenever we were out and about, we were prepared for any and all possibilities with a nursing pillow and pumped milk always on the ready.
At 13 months, Livi is still breastfeeding quite frequently, which does not surprise me. Until only a few weeks ago, she still wanted to nurse every two hours.
Breastfeeding has become a time for both of us to relax and calm down. I am not sure how much longer she will want to nurse but for now I am still happy to do it.
I hear high need babies tend to breastfeed for quite some time and that is okay. It is still the best way to calm and soothe Livi. Without it, some of our days would be much, much harder.
Note: This post is not meant to imply that only breastfeeding will work with a (high need) baby. However, it is the only feeding with which I have experience and therefore, the only one I can write about.