Breastfeeding during meals

11 December 2010 at 8:49 am Leave a comment

From the time my baby was very young–just a day or so old–I was breastfeeding him during (my) meals, as a way to keep my sanity and stave off hunger. Sure, a few crumbs dropped on his head occasionally, but he was fine.

As he got older–three, four, five months–he would sit on my lap while I ate, content to watch our faces and the shiny utensils. If he got a little fussy and we were still eating (at home or in a restaurant), I’d just pop him onto the breast, and he’d drink while I ate.

When he was older still, and first trying solid foods, we did use a high chair initially but found that it didn’t really fit our family’s style. We never really gave our son purees, but rather food off our plate, that he could gum at (strips of steak or pork chop, for example, or stir-fried green beans or broccoli florets, etc.), so it just made more sense to hold him in my lap and let him eat right off my plate. In those early days, honestly, there wasn’t a whole lot of actual eating happening, either–it was just gumming and licking and tasting, and sometimes he’d work at a piece of meat for forty-five minutes, sucking every bit of tasty meat juice out of it. Breastmilk, naturally, was still the biggest part of his diet at eight, nine, ten, eleven months old, so while he’d play with “real” food, and have small sips of water from a cup just to practice using a cup, he would still nurse a lot–even during his meals. This meant that he’d be sitting on my lap, gnawing on something from my plate, and then turn his head a little and nurse; he might go back to the plate, the breast, the plate, a number of times in a meal, or he might just decide he was done with the hard work of eating for the time being, and nurse for a long while in my lap instead.

We played it completely by ear, trusting that he would self-regulate, and he really did. This pattern did result in my occasionally finding food on my breast, if he turned to nurse and still had a bit of food in his mouth–but I found that more amusing than anything else.

I mention this now because I’ve been thinking about how this system worked for our family (I’m not saying, at all, that it’s the only way to do things, of course), and that it might help others. I’ve heard other moms say that once baby starts solid food, he’s less interested in the breast, to the point of demand dropping off so much that her supply drops off, and then demand drops off even more, and then she feels forced to start formula at nine or ten months, just so that baby is still getting a nutritionally balanced diet until s/he can really consume enough solids. If that’s the case, what about first ditching the high chair, and wearing an easy-access shirt to the table? Baby may find that solids are pretty exciting, but the ready availability of a “tap” of breastmilk gives your milk more of a chance to compete for baby’s attention.

(As a footnote, we actually have started using our high chair a lot nowadays, now that baby is two, because he really likes sitting in it pulled up to the table, tray off, and eating in “his” chair importantly.)

–Christina

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