Breastfeeding on Demand: a Cross-Cultural Perspective

By Nichole on January 6th 2014

breastfeeding


I discovered the work of Gwen Dewar, Ph.D when ParentingScience.com covered her 2008 work on breastfeeding on demand, also known as "baby-led" and "on-cue" feeding. The basis of this practice is that baby, with the means they have developmentally at their disposal, initiates feedings with their mother. Feeding sessions begin with baby's request and finishes when baby is satiated.


Dr. Dewar shares that, "Evolutionary, cross-cultural, and clinical research suggests that babies were designed to feed on cue. For details, see my article on the scientific evidence for breastfeeding on demand. Here I provide an overview of the benefits of breastfeeding on demand, and focus on the ways that new moms can cope with frequent, baby-initiated feedings.


Women living in Westernized, industrial societies face special problems that can make demand feeding more difficult. I discuss how babies are breastfed in other cultures and suggest how Western moms can apply these lessons to their own lives."


Dewar covers it all, from the many reasons why breastfeeding on demand is a good idea for both mother and baby, to how to support the mother in doing so with babywearing and cosleeping as the supporting tools to build sensitivity and offer mothers an easier path. She even introduces how a mother's milk will change throughout the day and why this is important for baby's changing needs.


And as my own son moves toward weaning, Dewar's research and that of her colleague's, is still important to me, both as a mother and as woman in my greater community of mothers. The value of research-based validation is whatever it means to you. I for one appreciate the validation and I want to share this type of family-based research with new moms who are working so hard, day and night, to meet their baby's needs because I know in my bones that it matters. It matters that we meet our baby's needs and it matters just as much that we support women who are wanting to. We can do this for each other by sharing intelligent and (un)common sense  information, as well as with our heartfelt cheering.


I see how my own nursing on-demand with my son has made an incredibly powerful impact in his life, and how co-sleeping and babywearing supported me in meeting that demand on days of ease and days of challenges. I see the same for my friends who have chosen (or who eventually found themselves on) the same path of on-demand or baby-led breastfeeding as I have been.


Here is Dr. Dewar's full article, including her resources, on ParentingScience.com. Take a read to learn more about breastfeeding on demand. This is a great resource of intelligent support that we can use for ourselves and for new families who are just starting out.