If I had a dollar for every time I heard this question… This question is so popular because we look at breastfeeding as primarily a way to satisfy nutritional needs. Of course feeding is the most basic human need and without satisfying that need, everything else seems unimportant, but focusing on only that aspect of breastfeeding makes it difficult to understand your baby’s behaviors.
Babies don’t know that they are hungry
What if I told you, your baby doesn’t know if they are hungry either. They can’t interpret the signals their body is sending. I often hear parents say in the delivery room “look he is so hungry” when they see baby rooting and suckling on their fists. I asked why do they think baby is hungry if they were just born and just came out of their mother’s womb where they essentially had a “all you can eat buffet”.
Newborn behavior is driven be reflexes
Babies behaviors are driven by their newborn primitive reflexes that ensure their survival. They show hunger anytime they need to get your attention to make sure you respond to their needs. That’s why they show these signals, they do this anytime they are awake, uncomfortable, or just looking for human contact and attention. Neurologically, they know that you’re the answer to all of their needs.
Your role is to be there for your baby
Honestly, you really don’t have to know if their behavior is a sign of hunger or not. Your role is to be there for your baby no matter what the reason is. That’s how you build a trusting relationship. Your job is to offer food; their role is to accept it or not. Please don’t worry if you’re overfeeding or not. Our bodies are pretty amazing with regulating this. That’s what supply and demand is all about. Just offer the food, your body will figure out the rest.
The real power of breastfeeding
The beauty and power of breastfeeding lays in the fact that no matter the need, breastfeeding can help you fulfill it. If your baby is tired and needs sleep, there isn’t a more comfortable way to fall asleep then during breastfeeding. If they are in pain or uncomfortable, suckling will calm them down and bring the relief they are looking for. If your baby is distress and you offer to feed, you’ll get to feel good and relax too. You know that they are happiest at a breast.
Try not to over analyze it. Offer to feed first, be there for your baby’s needs and if you still have concerns and wonder if your baby’s behaviors signal that there is a problem seek professional help.