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Blog: The lasagne effect

Information on breastfeeding timing and schedules

by Simone Casey

A plate with a slice of lasagne, topped with melted cheese. A bowl of garden salad sits beside it.

In my role as a volunteer breastfeeding counsellor, I was talking to a group of new mothers this week and was inundated with questions about timing feeds. One mum said she’d heard that she should wait at least 3 hours between feeds and that she should put her son on the breast for exactly 15 minutes per side. Firstly, babies don’t know what a clock is. But for us mums, well, depending on what we did before we became parents, clocks kind of ruled our life, so I get that it’s hard to let go of that. There was a time to get up, eat breakfast, be at work, have a lunch break, go home, eat dinner, go to bed.

When you have a baby, it can feel like you’re losing control when your life is ruled by something as innate as when your little one is hungry, wet, lonely, hot or cold, but that’s the nature of parenthood, and it’s up to us to adapt to our new full-time career-change. I then came up with a food analogy that had all 15 mums in that group nodding and smiling and saying, yes, we understand. Do you feel like eating a large serve of lasagne with a side salad for every meal of the day? Well, no. Do you sometimes just feel like an apple, or a bickie and a cup of tea? Yes. Are you sometimes hungry just an hour or two after eating? There was more nodding. These poor mums were petrified that their babies would ‘snack feed’ and use the breast as a dummy. My answer is ‘what is wrong with that?’ How can you expect to give yourself the luxury of eating as much as you want, when you want it, but expect your child to only eat a large meal every time and no snacks at all. You can’t.

When explained like that, these mums relaxed. They got it. As many breastfeeding mums have discovered, you can’t force a child to breastfeed, they need to physically suck the breast to get any milk out. Researchers think this might be why breastfed babies are less likely to become obese as children or adults. They have learnt a very basic but important skill — to stop when they are full. Sometimes, when babies are bottle-fed, they are encouraged to finish the bottle even when they are not hungry. To me, that means their ‘off switch’ is being overridden. The way a teat works means that it can be pushed between the baby’s lips, the milk drips into their mouth and they need to swallow it, or they will cough and splutter. This means they drink more than they need to.

As a part of sensible, healthy eating, we are encouraged to have small meals throughout the day to regulate metabolism. A baby’s appetite seems to naturally mimic this rhythm, if we let it. A healthy baby also has a very strong survival instinct. They will NOT let themselves starve. We need to trust that instinct and as for the clocks, chuck ‘em I say. Figuratively speaking, of course. Otherwise, I might forget to pick the kids up from school.

Simone Casey is an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor and community educator from Northern Melbourne. She’s breastfed three children over nine years and has been volunteering with ABA for over 13 years, with a 6-year stint as group leader of the Pascoe Hume Group and several years as regional representative of the Tullamarine Region. Simone was a journalist for 20 years so has loved combining her writing skills with her breastfeeding knowledge to create blogs for the national website and now recording this podcast series. In 2011 she qualified as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and works in a private inner city hospital and runs her own lactation business doing home visits. Her volunteering highlight was at a branch conference in Ballarat when a trainee referred to her as ‘the Kylie Minogue of breastfeeding’.


More information

Companion podcast episode

Does your baby snack feed? The duration and scheduling of breastfeeds is a hot topic both for mums having questions and others giving advice. Jess and Simone chat about feed timing, and what Simone likes to call the lasagne effect.

Listen here

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