Nourishment takes many forms when mom and baby enjoy this time together.
For the mother, feeding offers the chance to gaze at, stroke, smell and touch the baby--all vital for bonding. Bonus: It also requires her to sit down at least eight times a day, ensuring rest.
When should you feed your baby? Watching the clock is one way. Newborns need to eat every two to three hours, day and night. An even better way, however, is to simply watch your baby. You don't need to wait until your baby cries -- crying is a very late sign of hunger. Babies have calmer, earlier ways of showing they're ready to suck:
- Getting restless or fidgety
- Smacking their lips or rubbing their tongue on their lips
- Sucking on a finger, tongue or lips
- Rubbing their cheek on your clothing or blanket.
Any of these signs is cue to try to feed your baby, no matter how long it has been since the last feeding you gave him or her.
In the first few weeks, you'll be spending a lot of time feeding your baby. It takes about 30 minutes to complete a feeding, whether you're breast- or bottle-feeding. It's easy to see that nature's plan benefits mother and child.
If the new mother is breastfeeding, she has the added benefit of the hormone prolactin, which increases during the last two weeks of pregnancy and intensifies the mother's warm, loving feelings. Breastfeeding the baby increases the amount of prolactin a mother produces, making those warm feelings last. When the baby breastfeeds and the mother has "letdown," she also releases oxytocin, another hormone. This causes the uterus to tighten and protects her from excessive bleeding. It also makes her thirsty and drowsy. Again, nature provides for her needs.