Congratulations for choosing to breastfeed your baby, it is the best thing you can do. As a midwife I am oftened asked when babies sleep through the night or, parents tell me that they were up all night feeding their baby.
I think it would be great for our daughters to know how wonderful breastfeeding is and, that night feeds are really important. Babies do not read the book that say adults sleep at night, also, if I took that sandwich out of your hand and said you cant eat it until later or, tell you that you cannot have that snack you are looking forward to having. I am sure you would not be very happy with me, in fact, you would probably tell me, in no uncertain terms what I could do with myself.
Babies do cry, it sounds obvious but they cry for many reasons, hunger is one, but also because they want our warmth and comfort, they are having a growth spurt, they are wet, dirty, bored or, they cry simply because they can and want to be held. Speaking from experience both as mother and a midwife, I find it very interesting (and funny too) that we, as humans, expect our offspring to go into a different room, cot, away from us to sleep etc., when, in the animal world their young are continually clinging to their mothers for protection and, where there is free access to the breast.
Free Access Feeding
So, why do we think babies should be any different and conform to patterns and schedules? Babies are like any other mammal, they seek out the warmth and protection from their mother and suckle at the breast. All mammals in the Kingdom allow what I call 'Free Access' feeding, in other words, letting your baby feed from the breast, whenever he/she wants for as long as they want. I do not call it 'demand' feeding, because it sounds like your baby is being demanding, when in actual fact, they are displaying normal behaviour and doing what any other mammal would do.
By giving your baby 'Free access' to the breast, it stimulates the release of a hormone called prolactin to help build up your milk supply and, baby gets a nutritious drink at the same time. Prolactin, is mainly released at night, released during the day to a certain extent but mainly at night, that is why night feeds are important.
Your baby will have a growth spurts, usually every one to two weeks and will want to go to your breast quite frequently for 24-48hrs because he/she has put on weight and needs to increase your milk supply, and he/she can only increase your supply by sucking frequently at your breasts.
Do not expect any set patterns for a while because it takes at least 7-10 days to get breastfeeding established. Some advice to get you through the early weeks are to ensure that you get adequate rest, is for you and your partner to sleep while your baby sleeps. Do not feel that you have to entertain visitors, dust and housework can wait, in fact, organise a good friend/relative to come in to do some housework for an hour or so a day.
KNOW THAT YOU CAN DO IT.....have the confidence to know that you will produce more than enough milk for your baby, if you allow 'Free Access' feeding to your breasts. You are just awesome and we totally support you in mind and spirit.
Some organisations (apart from your midwife) that are just wonderful with help, support and advice are your local Lactation Consultants and the La Leche league.