Breastfeeding doesn't come with it's own instruction manual, and for many first-time moms, even the most basic of breastfeeding questions can seem impossible to answer. I remember holding my first daughter in the delivery room and having a mild panic attack because I didn't know if I should be feeding her or not. I mean, how do you know how often to breastfeed a person who can't just say "hey, I'm hungry." Yes, babies cry when they are hungry, but they also cry for a million other reasons, right. How was I supposed to know which cries meant feeding time? I eventually figured it out, as all parents do, but knowing what to expect when it came to breastfeeding frequency would have been helpful.
Unfortunately, as every mom has to learn for themselves, there's no perfect formula for creating your baby's perfect feeding schedule. Each baby is different, each mother has a different milk supply, and each feeding schedule is different. There are, however, guidelines that, when combined with your baby's hunger cues, can be used to know when you should breastfeed and when your baby might be fussing for other reasons.
According to La Leche League International (LLLI), breastfed babies tend to regulate themselves. Breast milk is easily digested, so many moms find that their babies need to eat more often than they expected. Instead of watching the clock, LLLI suggested that mothers pay attention to their babies hunger cues. Although it may seem unpredictable, it turns out that babies have hunger cues that are fairly universal and easy to spot.
Belly Belly added that common hunger cues for babies are sucking on their fists, rooting for the breast, opening and closing their mouth, smacking their lips, and fussing. Crying, it turns out, is a later hunger cue that means your baby needs to eat right away.
Although your baby should display hunger cues at regular intervals, having a bit of an ideal feeding schedule in mind can be helpful to keep your sanity intact. Once you've gotten the hang of your baby's hunger cues, you can implement a feeding schedule that follows the pattern they set. The Baby Sleep Site noted that most newborns need to eat every two to three hours around the clock, older babies can go anywhere from every four to five hours between feedings.
Instead of stressing about crafting the ideal feeding schedule, learn right along with your baby and soon, the two of you will fall into a routine that is perfect for both of you.