Should you schedule baby's feeds?

My 12 week old sleeps for four hours at night and then wakes up every two hours to nurse, continuing to feed around every two hours throughout the day. She usually only nurses at one breast per feed but she seems to be thriving. On the other hand, I'm exhausted! Should I schedule her feeds, spacing out the time between feedings during the day in the hopes that she will take in more milk at one time?


Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

As a new mom, it can be very confusing to be bombarded with advice from health care providers, friends, and relatives. Your own mother may tell you that scheduling your baby's feeds is one way to give yourself more time. Even when we really know what our baby's needs are, just be watching her, we look to others to help guide us.

I do not recommend the scheduling of feeds for breastfed babies:

  • Physiologically speaking, breastmilk is digested in less than two hours, so your baby will probably be hungry again within a couple of hours even if she has consumed a large quantity of your milk. Spacing out the feeds when she is hungry will only serve to frustrate both of you, and possibly reduce your milk supply and compromise her health.
  • Watching your baby, rather than the clock, allows her to control her feeds. She knows best when she is hungry. (Remember, that on some days, you are hungry at times other than at scheduled mealtimes!) If you arbitrarily decide when your baby should eat, you are teaching her to ignore her body's signals. It is my opinion that this could be dangerous in the long run.

What might help your daughter to sleep for longer periods through the night is increasing her feeds during the day. Allow your baby lots of skin-to-skin contact, carrying her (in sling or pack.) Your baby needs rest during the day, and short naps may encourage her to sleep better at night. Allow her to nap in a well-lit room, rather than lying her down in a quiet, darkened bedroom. Save the quiet times and darkened rooms for nighttime. If she begins moving around, sucking at her fingers or making sounds during her nap, this would be a good time to pick her up and nurse her.

It is so important to get rest when taking care of a baby. It isn't easy being on call 24 hours a day. Rest with your baby, eat well and get some exercise. It can be really difficult to remember your own needs when mothering a new baby, but taking care of yourself is of utmost importance. If you need some help, don't hesitate to ask your partner, family or friends.

Isn't it reassuring to know your baby is growing so well on your milk? It sounds like you have an abundant supply. Don't worry about your baby nursing at one breast per feed. This will allow her to access her "dessert" -- your rich hindmilk, which is higher in fat and calories, but lower in volume. Feeding in this manner may help her to stay satisfied for a longer period of time. Best wishes!

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