It is interesting that we have the term "demand feeding” in our culture. The amazing design of the human body actually guarantees that a baby=s needs will be met.
The term "demand feeding” really just refers to the biologically necessary way to nurse a baby. The mother=s body works to produce milk only with the suckling action of the baby. Baby=s suckling triggers the mother=s body to produce the hormones necessary to produce milk. In other words, it is a supply and demand relationship between the mother and infant. Mother will produce only exactly what her baby is telling her body to produce.
This wondrous design also includes the actual content of mother=s milk. Human milk has a low fat content and, in combination with the tiny newborn stomach, requires frequent feedings. This frequency of feedings guarantees that baby will enjoy many hours of skin-to-skin contact, lots of suckling gives baby necessary jaw development, switching from side to side helps to develop his left and right brain, and all the while he is learning self-regulation and building his trust with the world. Baby regulates the amount, frequency and duration of feeds.
This most intricate design means that mother, without even having to think about it, will increase her volume of milk for a growth spurt or illness, and her body will adapt to literally anything – even going back to work full-time. Her body will adjust to producing milk for a specific schedule. If mother comes in contact with a "bug”, her body will immediately produce antibodies for baby. If baby is born early, her body will produce milk especially designed for preemies!
"Breastfeeding on demand” is a term that I think was developed to teach a concept contrary to a culture who needs to control and schedule everything. The concept is to trust the natural design and wisdom of the mother/baby relationship.
By nursing a baby on demand, a mother develops a way of mothering her baby that respects the baby. It says AI trust that you know when you are hungry and I trust that you are in need when you call for me.” It is a "parenting tool;” as well as nourishing a baby or toddler optimally, it also helps them through teething, helps them to sleep peacefully, makes an "ouch” all better, calms a tantrum, or gives mom a few moments of rest with an otherwise very busy toddler. The hormones that mother produces each and every time she nurses her baby, encourage her loving and nurturing feelings towards her baby and make mothering a very enjoyable task.
Finally, a discussion on meeting dependency needs through breastfeeding on demand would not be complete without mentioning "weaning.” Allowing a baby to "outgrow” his need for nursing seems far too "indulgent” to most people. The nursing relationship is often seen as having created more dependency in a toddler.
In actual fact, toddlers who are allowed to wean of their own accord turn out to be more independent in studies. Mother=s milk adapts to toddlerhood by becoming more concentrated and increasing in immunities to protect him in his growing adventures out into the world. Whether you look at it from a physical or emotional perspective, a natural weaning certainly seems like a beautiful transition from something as special as the nursing relationship. Life is full of "weanings.” How wonderful for a child to make this first important transition in a loving and trusting way, fulfilled and with the intimacy intact.
Laurie Chalmers owns The Natural Mother Store and with her business partner, Maida Foucher, owns the Canadian distribution rights for Lovely Baby Music Canada.