Today I'd like to challenge a bit of breastfeeding orthodoxy.
Most breastfeeding books advise that when a baby is done with a feeding, he will "come off the breast on his own." In fact, I used this phrase in a book I wrote a few years ago.
But I've always been uncomfortable with this idea, because I only rarely see babies do this. Nearly every baby I've seen will continue to nurse as long as they can, coming off the breast on their own only when they're asleep and can't keep a seal on the breast. If a baby remains awake through a feeding, they almost always require a little assistance to end the feeding. Both my babies would stay on until 2047 if I let them.
Now, I'm guessing that part of the problem is that there are different definitions of "done." Done eating and done nursing are not the same thing, since babies get a lot of comfort out of nursing after they've gotten a belly full of milk. But if you define "done" as finished both eating and comfort nursing, many mothers would never have a chance to go to the bathroom. (One exception are mothers who have a big oversupply or fast let down, whose babies sometimes come off to save themselves from drowning!)
Here's what I feel much more comfortable advising: When your baby is swallowing (and I show how to recognize swallowing) she's eating. Obviously, she's not done at that point. Once you see nearly all sucking and few swallows, she's nursing for comfort. When you see that, your baby is comfort nursing. At that point, you can decide how long you want to continue nursing. There's nothing wrong with comfort feeding, and there'sHow long will a feeding be? There's no right answer. It will vary by mother, baby, and from feeding to feeding. One thing is for certain: The clock can't tell you when your baby is done, but your baby can.
This advice assumes that the baby is gaining weight well and breastfeeding is going fine, and might not be appropriate in a situation where a baby is sleepy, preterm, jaundiced or otherwise ill, or when a mother has a low supply. It also assumes on cue feeding, and that a mother is past the colostrum stage.
But in most cases I think that this guideline works a lot better. What do you think?