If you are a new mom, one of the most important things you need to know is that you need to feed your baby on demand.
Now when hearing the word "demand", you may think of a toddler throwing a tantrum in a shopping mall, "demanding" a toy. This connotation may lead you to think that "demand" relates to a child wanting something he does not need but simply wants for no reason. That is why I like to think of my feeding method as "Need Feeding", my baby needs to feed, she knows she needs to feed and thus tells me.
Babies nurse for more reasons than just hunger, they nurse for nurture too.
Now comes the part where all the older generation will tell you, "Your baby does not need to feed all the time, put your baby on a clock. We fed our babies every 4 hours and they turned out fine." Firstly they are telling you this because they are so scared that your baby will tell you she needs to feed at the most inconvenient of times, while you are in their presence, and they are dead scared of seeing your nipple! While I personally won't subject another person to my nipple if I know they do not want to see it, this "nursing in public" story is a whole other topic in itself.
Secondly, they either fed their babies formula, which does take a baby longer to digest as it is man-made so it could very well have tied them over for longer between feeds (Keep in mind that breastmilk digests within 90 minutes) or they could have been fortunate enough to be blessed with a large storage capacity and a lot of alveoli or they could simply have missed their baby's hunger cues and did not understand why their babies were unhappy, cranky or crying.
You have to remember that babies are humans just like you and I, with needs just like you and I. We get thirsty at different times during the day, we get hungry at different times during the day, we feel like a snack at different times during the day. The same goes for night time,most of us get up for a sip of water.
Babies are just like us, they will be thirsty, hungry and feel like a snack at random times, why should they wait? How is it their fault that you are in the middle of a shopping mall or visiting with family? The notion of your comfort being more important than your baby's needs where introduced by formula companies as a marketing campaign when formula was invented. They needed a way to convince mothers that their breastmilk was not good enough and that formula was a better and more convenient option.
Babies will need to nurse at different times during day and night as their needs change. If it is a particularly hot day, they will need to nurse more. If they have just burned all their energy on that tummy time session you had them do, they will need to nurse (aren't you thirsty after gym?). If they had to use energy to sit up, stand up, walk, talk to you, turn their heads to look around at all the bright colors, they will need to nurse more. If they know they are going to go through a mental leap (wonder week) or growth spurt, they will need to nurse more to increase your supply and they will also need to nurse more to get energy to physically go through that mental leap (wonder week) or growth spurt.
If your baby knows that you make her wait for feeds when she is hungry, she knows to store energy to survive, she will thus store her energy and not explore the world and develop as much as she has the potential to. She will reserve energy for when she needs to fuss and cry and try to get you to feed her. However, if she knows that her needs are always met, she will have no inhibitions and will develop and explore to her fullest potential.
Babies also nurse for more reasons than just hunger, they nurse for nurture too. They nurse when they are sleepy, as breastmilk contains hormones that help them sleep.They nurse when they are ill, recovering from illness or need to build immunity, as breastmilk contains antibodies and nutrients.
They nurse for comfort or to be held - when you need comfort you go and hug a loved one - a small baby cannot get up and go hug a loved one. They nurse when they are scared - when you are scared you get out your tazer or go put on the house alarm - a baby does not have a tazer. They nurse for eye contact - when you want eye contact you go and talk to someone or tell them "look at me" - a small baby cannot talk. They nurse when they are in pain, like after an injection, as breastmilk is high in glucose. They nurse because they miss their mom.
Your baby knows when they are going through a growth spurt and that they need to up your supply for next week when they are bigger and need more milk. Breastmilk production works on supply and demand and therefore you need to feed on demand and trust your baby. You need to allow your baby to place her order.
You are the mother, that little life is in your hands, you need to make sure you do what is best for your baby. If others do not understand, you do. Your baby knows "Mommy takes care of me, Mommy keeps me safe."