Last time we took Shira for her check-ups and a vaccination at the nurse's office, we were also handed a bunch of leaflets on the care of babies throughout the first year of life (as it was clear that we are expecting another one). I didn't bother to look at them, but yesterday my husband opened the leaflet dedicated to the care of newborns, and what we read there left me deeply disturbed.
For breastfed newborn babies, they recommend "between 6 and 8 (!) feedings in 24 hours, as baby requests". The implication here is that newborns eat, on average, about every 4 hours, or 3 hours at most, and that it isn't recommended to nurse a baby more often. In reality, it's usually closer to every 2-3 hours, and often even more frequently – and some extra nursing surely won't do harm, as it's very difficult to "overfeed" a nursing baby, compared to the dangerous practice of restricting feedings, which can cause a lot of pain, breast congestion, frustration for the new mother and eventually reduction in milk supply and poor weight gain for the baby.
They recommend the same number of feedings (6-
8 in 24 hours) for breastfed and formula-fed babies, which is a clear evidence of their blatant ignorance about breastfeeding. Breast milk is far more easily digested and often consumed in smaller amounts than formula (because baby simply stops nursing when he/she is satisfied, instead of being urged to finish the bottle), and therefore breastfed babies usually have to eat much more often. But our health "experts" make no distinction between breast milk and formula, except the vague notion that breast milk is "better".
This potentially detrimental, dangerous, misinformed advice, which is passed out as the official word of the Israeli health care system, has undoubtedly already undermined breastfeeding for many new mothers.
The truth is, there are no rules regarding how often a baby wants to nurse, and the last thing the parents of a newborn should worry about is whether their baby conforms to any sort of "feeding schedule". It depends on so many factors, and nursing is so much more than just food. A mother's breast is nearly the whole world for a newborn, it's warmth, stability and comfort and love.
There are women who claim they couldn't successfully breastfeed because their baby "wanted to nurse all the time." When you look at their body frame, it becomes obvious that their milk storage capacity is probably small (meaning that they have small breasts that begin leaking after about an hour between feedings), thus the need for more frequent feedings – but they didn't "fail", they were just made believe they were somehow unsuccessful, by a system that in some twisted way thinks that breastfeeding must work like bottle-feeding.
There were relatives who literally tried to make me feel ashamed, or worried, or guilty, about nursing often. I would head off and nurse the baby, then after an hour and a half she'd be hungry again, and as I would gather her in my arms to go and nurse her once more, I'd hear remarks such as "but wait, three hours haven't passed yet, aren't you watching the clock?", or "there's no way she'd be hungry that often if you had enough milk" (no, I'm not watching the clock, and yes, perhaps she isn't really hungry yet but she wants to nurse and no harm will be done if I let her). Such comments are forgivable when they come from older women who were given bad advice themselves 30 years ago, but it's infuriating to hear or read such misinformation still being passed on to women today.