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Healthy Breastfeeding - Australian Breastfeeding Counsellor

Author Philippa Murphy

Healthy Breastfeeding - Australian Breastfeeding Counsellor

Currently mothers are widely taught to feed from both breasts in one sitting - offer ‘a main and then dessert’. We also frequently hear that you cannot over fed a baby, however, newborn biology and current research tells us otherwise.

A study on the ‘Development of bowel habit in preterm infants’ suggests that the more feeds a newborn has, the more stools they have, this is also obvious throughout my years of working with newborns. The study says that, “frequent milk feeds override the intrinsic, fasting, motor activity of the colon, and induce regular defecation at a frequency determined directly by the volume of the products of digestion that reach the rectum.” In other words, when a newborn is fed too often the sheer volume pushes the food through to the duodenum and onto the large bowel, all before the stomach enzymes and acid have processed the milk fully. This places unnecessary pressure on many physiological components and has the baby’s body struggling with unnatural processes. It is this pressure that contributes to communicated discomfort and the possible diagnosis of Digestive Overload (or what is commonly called ‘colic and/or lactose overload’) as the duodenum, colon and large bowel try to cope.

Therefore, five to eight dirty nappies a day is not normal – it is an indicator that the newborn’s digestive system is being pushed beyond its natural capabilities. That the food is being pushed through the system before it has had a chance to be absorbed and broken down correctly.

We are also conditioned to believe that a big baby is a healthy baby however, like humans at any age, this is not the case. Consistent large weight gains are indicative of a newborn being overfed as the overabundance of fat moves onto the body, leaving a multitude of organs to struggle. The uncanny thing is that when a baby is being overfed, or they are in discomfort they look to suck more often (wanting comfort), and because society is largely taught that sucking only means a baby is hungry, parents of course feed. This starts the cycle of feeding beyond digestive capabilities, which then creates unsettled behaviours and many digestive issues. One of these  is lactose overload.

A fairly recent, very succinct article about lactose overload has been written by Joy Anderson, a counsellor for the Australian Breastfeeding Association, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and Nutritionist. I absolutely love this article it as it explains well the adverse effect of feeding too often, feeding from both sides in one sitting and the natural mechanism that all newborns have of ‘acting hungry’ (wanting to suck more) when the digestive system is out-of-kilter and struggling. You can read Joy’s full article here.

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BabyCues would like to thank Rachel Colman for her photo which we have used under the creative commons license.

Last Updated: 02 April 2016