Scheduled Vs. Ad Libitum Breastfeeding

Newborn

So you have made the decision to forego formula and breastfeed your baby. Congratulations to you and your soon-to-be newborn! Breastfeeding is the most natural way to bond with your new baby and allow them the benefit of receiving nature’s gift for them through your body. This is the best way to bond with your new baby. Studies show that breastfed babies tend to have higher IQ scores, naturally form a strong bond with their mothers, and they also receive a potent dose of antibodies through the breastmilk that helps them to bulk up their immune systems, making them less prone to allergens, ear infections, and respiratory illnesses.

Now that you have surveyed your options, there’s one more choice to consider: scheduled or ad libitum breastfeeding? Both of these have their own benefits and shortcomings. The ultimate question is up to your personal preference, as it relates to your lifestyle, work schedule, and how organized you would like to be regarding the time your baby nurses. This can be the source of frustration for the new mother, if not considered carefully what the implications are to each choice, so we are here to help you in weighing the pros and cons of each, and hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll be able to have a clear mind and direction in which you will move, as it pertains to what is realistic for your life and your baby’s health. Remember this: You are the mother, and everything relies on you and how you feel. Your baby will pick up on your stresses, so it’s much better to have a plan that needs to be revised than to have no plan at all to start with.

SCHEDULED BREASTFEEDING

Scheduled breastfeeding could lend itself more to a mom that has a busy day and needs to adhere to specific blocks of time to complete certain tasks. This option lends itself mostly to working moms, entrepreneurial moms, or moms that have multiple children for which she divides her devoted love and attention. Bearing this in mind, your day is filled with various happenings, but above all else, as the old saying goes (even with your schedule) to “watch the baby, not the clock.” Although scheduled feeding is great for record keeping, so that you can record and trend exactly how much your baby drank and when for his or her health reasons, it is equally important not to nudge your baby into a schedule and to follow baby’s lead, and you adjust your schedule as needed and as baby’s sustenance thresholds change.

Scheduling is also great for your days, as you may set a time to pump or feed, in case your little one isn’t hungry. You may also be inclined to make this a time in your day, set aside from all of your other many distractions, to spend some one-on-one time with just yourself and your newborn. Scheduled feeding is not usually recommended. However, depending on if you are planning to schedule, bearing in mind the ever-growing needs of your baby, it may prove less difficult and stressful, for the newborn at least, to try ad libitum breastfeeding before ruling it out.

AD LIBITUM BREASTFEEDING

This method of breastfeeding typically relies on the baby and is mostly recommended by the medical community, namely lactation consultants. Their concern is for the child’s well-being, in that mothers that schedule nursing times are likely not able to anticipate appetite changes and therefore make for a loss of milk supply, as continuous nursing allows for a steady milk flow and continuous production. Also, the body will naturally bulk up on the milk supply naturally, as your baby’s appetite grows over time. Although not impossible, it may prove difficult for nursing schedules.

Because you would be essentially letting your body intuitively determine what your baby needs, it will give you less to worry about and allow you to comfort your baby with nursing whenever your baby needs it. Also, it gives your child the added benefit of growing properly and getting all of the nutrients available to them, as their body requires it. This would give pro-ad libitum moms a leg up in the race of getting to those very precious breastfeeding benefits.

Although there are numerous benefits of allowing your child to feed “on-demand,” there is only one caveat to this method: Ad libitum breastfeeding should be avoided after the first teeth erupt. Dental health professionals are worried that nocturnal ad-libitum breastfeeding can significantly increase the chances of the child having enamel defects, advancing up to cavities that will need crowns. This can simply be avoided by not allowing your child to breastfeed just before bed. It is also not a bad idea to start to clean the teeth with a little water and a soft baby cloth. The idea is to keep your child’s teeth relatively free of anything that would stick onto the teeth while (s)he sleeps and resisting the urge to feed just before bed will help exponentially.

Yes, there is a bit of a downside to everything in life. Your job is to weigh the pros and the cons. The thing is this: No-one can tell you what is best for your baby. Only you know for sure. As long as the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, it seems like a great decision to start there and adjust as you go. Hope this guide made your decision a little easier!

Have more questions about what is right for your newborn? Check out the rest of the blog for more insights!

References:

WebMD

Breastfeeding Center

A+ Dentistry for Kids

Brian Palmer D.D.S