The term "on demand" has always made me feel really uncomfortable. It sort of says the baby is demanding a feed, or that a baby who feeds very often is more demanding than a baby who feeds less often. It also says that feeding is all about baby. When UNICEF created the new guide to mothers called responsive feeding, replacing the awful term "on demand", I was hoping the message would get out far quicker than it has. It's been 2 1/2 years and I still don't hear it being used much, nor is it a term new mums seem that familiar with. So what is it?
First of all, I need to address the "feeding" bit of the term responsive feeding. It implies that bringing your baby to the breast is for feeding only. We know that a baby comes to the breast for a whole host of reasons, but since there isn't really a better term for "coming to the breast", feeding will have to do.
Responsive feeding means that you bring your baby to the breast whenever your baby is restless, fractious, hungry or unsettled as the go to method to settle him. Even if he's just been there, back he goes. It also means that you bring your baby to the breast whenever you feel uncomfortable, fancy a cuddle, before you go out, need a rest, feel down or feel the urge to feed. So the term means that feeding, or bringing your baby to the breast, will respond to both of your needs, even at different times. If a mum uses this approach then many other things becomes easier. Your baby will calmer, you will feel like breastfeeding is easier, going out becomes easier and weight gain will take care of itself (If there are ongoing issues such as a tongue tie or other medical circumstances, then those will still need to be addressed).
For most mothers this way of responding to your baby comes naturally (especially for second time mothers) whereas other mums take a little longer to get into it, because as first time mothers (or mothers who didn't breastfeed any previous children) they simply don't know what is normal. They also don't know that there is a huge variation of normal. The only way to understand your baby, is to look and listen to him.
Using your breasts for everything that could be wrong, is such a powerful way of getting close and in tune with your baby. Many mums have said to me how much calmer their baby is when they have used the responsive feeding approach. Because we tend to hold and carry our babies more using this approach we also aid their digestion, give our babies a lot tummy time, reduce any pain through touch, increase our maternal hormones, reduce baby blues (and even lower the risk of postnatal depression) and much, much more.
For me, this approach really is what nature intended. It didn't intend for us to feed according to the clock or when our baby is worked up and demands a feed, it intended us to be using our breasts to grow a calm and confident baby AND mother.
If you have any breastfeeding problems, then please do seek out help first so you can comfortably move onto responsive feeding.