The benefits of responsive feeding and rooming-in
Breastfeeding your little one can be one of the most rewarding (and challenging) parts of new motherhood. And while the health benefits are well documented, it also comes with some emotional benefits like the bonding time with your baby – lots of moms site the endless night feeds, when it’s just the two of you, as some of the most precious moments. Two techniques that are well documented and researched can really help, so let’s talk about responsive feeding and rooming-in.
What in the name-of-the-breastfeeding-gods is responsive feeding?
Responsive feeding is when a mother responds (the name’s a giveaway here) to her baby’s need to be fed and is essentially working on a supply and demand basis, whether that’s breastfeeding or responsive bottle feeding. According to The Baby-Friendly Initiative from Unicef, responsive feeding recognizes that feeds are not just for nutrition but also love, comfort, and reassurance between babies and mothers. So it’s not only practical for new moms but also has some other benefits that are worth mentioning.
Picture the scene, you’ve met your friend for a coffee and a long overdue catch-up, and your little one Won’t. Stop. Crying. In this situation, if you’re practicing responsive feeding, the mom can offer her breast or bottle to calm them down. When your baby is upset, in an unfamiliar environment, or generally needs calming and comforting, responsive feeding can be a bit of a godsend. It might even mean you can carry on with your catch-up in peace.
Responsive breastfeeding is also a way to build the bond between mother and child because it’s really an exchange of love and not just a means of nutrition. It’s an instinct for mothers to feed, and they’ll emotionally benefit from those extra cuddles that come with responsive feeding.
On to rooming-in – think of it as a sleepover
The practice of rooming-in is defined by the World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund as a “practice where postnatal mothers and normal infants sleep together in the same room after delivery.” Obviously, it’s worth pointing out that not all new mothers will have this luxury of choice. Sometimes, for reasons beyond your control, you won’t be able to practice rooming-in. And that’s totally fine. Don’t let the mom guilt get to you.
But, if you’re able to, rooming-in can be an effective technique to help with nighttime feeds essentially. In the beginning, it’s very normal to be feeding every 1-3 hours, so being in the same room can make night feeds much easier. Keeping your child in the same room as you overnight will allow you to respond to their needs quicker, whether to feed them or comfort them. It can help you pick up on their hunger cues early and means you can soothe them quicker.
Rooming-in can also help with the bond between you and your little one, allowing you to understand each other better. Children that sleep in the same room or stay near their mom are more likely to remain calm and comfortable, which will help the child sleep better and, in turn, allow the mother to get more sleep too. Bliss.
There are lots of things that you shouldn’t say to new moms, and ‘just relax’ is probably one of them. (You try and relax when you’ve just pushed out an actual human, and now you have to keep it alive). But responsive bottle or breastfeeding and rooming-in will help you tune into your little one’s cues and habits, which will, in turn, help you relax in the long run. You’ll know what they need and how to give it to them, and that’s really all you can wish for in the first few weeks and months. And sleep. You can wish for sleep. But we can’t promise you’ll get that.