I Feed My Baby

I have heard the phrase “breastfeeding on demand” used to describe how often a mother might breastfeed her child. I sometimes hear “on request” and “on cue”, too, but these are much less frequent. A Google search for “breastfeeding on request” only turns up 89 results (which is darn near zero in Google-land), and some those are a different context, like, “Room available for breastfeeding on request.”

I think about word usage a lot. And I hate this phrase “on demand”. Demand often has a negative connotation to us. How do we feel when someone demands something of us? We might get a little defensive, and reasonably so. If someone wants something from you, would you rather they request it or demand it? When we think of someone “making demands”, we might have a mental image of someone throwing their weight around, pressuring us, stomping their feet, or raising their voice.

Is that how we picture our hungry babies? What effect does calling it “on demand” have on how we view our children’s hunger or need for comfort?

Technically, I think the term demand is accurate. Mirriam-Webster online has as the first definition of demand as “an act of demanding or asking especially with authority” and “something claimed as due”. A baby communicating ou’s need to suckle at the breast is absolutely asking with authority for something that ou is most certainly due.

And yet, there’s that connotation. Our culture offers enough cues and nudges towards being adversarial with our children, I think, without us starting out calling our babies demanding.

Besides, the reason to say that you feed your baby “on demand” is to differentiate from those who feed on a schedule. And frankly, I’m not sure I’d want to acknowledge them when talking about how I feed my own baby. Schedule feeding is so strange to me. I guess I can understand, “Hey, it’s been three hours, let’s see if the baby wants to eat.” But the flipside, “Baby seems hungry but isn’t allowed to eat for another half hour,” …do people really do that?

I don’t even use the words “breastfeed” or “nurse” all that often. “Breastfeeding” sometimes seems like a long, clunky word, and “nurse” just isn’t part of my normal vocabulary.

At the end of the day, what I’m doing is normal and my language reflects that. I don’t really breastfeed, nurse, feed on demand, on request, on cue, without a schedule.

I just feed my baby.



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