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A common cycle that creates these behaviours
In the late afternoon to evening the newborn will become agitated. Parents are often told
this happens because of a growth spurt and their baby needs more milk or they are told, it
is a natural occurrence for newborns to be hungrier in the evening hours and therefore they
normally cry and scream more.
This advice, and the heightened communication from their baby, has some parents
increasing breast or formula feeds in the evening (labelled cluster feeding). Breastfeeding
mothers may be guided to offer both breasts at one sitting, to introduce an expressed or
formula bottle feed or give ‘top-ups’ (offering expressed or formula milk after a breastfeed)
to help settle their newborn. If formula feeding, parents may be advised to increase the milk
quantity. These increases in food often subdue the newborn by throwing their body into
a sluggish state, making it look like the increase was the answer to solving the behaviour.
However, this subdued effect is short-lived because the baby’s digestive system is now feeling
further overload. This causes abnormal crying (see p. 50), which again may be misinterpreted
In addition to this, when a newborn is not helped to release trapped air in the stomach
by burping to the degree necessary for their age (see p. 73), air accumulates over a few feeds
and eventually creates spasms of pain through the digestive tract, and/or produces reflux.
The behaviour resulting from this is often, once again, misread as hunger. Thus parents fall
into feeding every two to three hours. Many postnatal organisations advocate this quick
succession feeding saying it is ‘normal’. However, biology tells us that two to three hours is
too short a gap for the newborns digestive system to function naturally (see p. 119).
Most parents know to burp their newborn after each feed, yet the amount of wind that
parents are taught to release through burping is nowhere near what is needed to aid a
newborn’s digestion. Parents sometimes feed baby to sleep or are told they do not need to
burp; that retained air does not create discomfort, or that if babies have not burped in ten
minutes then they have no more wind. But all of these things are physiologically untrue and
detrimental to the baby’s digestion and the family’s experience.
Each time the newborn is nursed to sleep, they soon become agitated by the excessive wind
or overload of waste moving through the intestines, and therefore whimper, cry or scream to
be soothed. Finally, exhausted from the crying, lack of sleep, restless bodily responses, and
all the feeding and possible refluxing, the bloated newborn falls asleep for a longer period.
Baby then wakes, usually crying, rooting and looking to suck either because of discomfort
and/or hunger. Parents often ascribe this distress to hunger only and feed. The newborn can
look ravenous, sucking hard at this time, gulping down the milk while feeding erratically.
30 | Common cycle
4/03/15 11:06 am