Your life has been pretty disciplined until now. You have had a time set aside for everything — work, meals, and social activities. Along comes your beautiful, bouncing baby, and with the wink of a tiny, little eye, they turn your simple concept of scheduling into an intricate art, which requires skillful balance and patience. When you are breastfeeding your baby, you may not be sure how often you should feed them. You may wonder, "Should I make a breastfeeding schedule?"
Michelle Kunschke, Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), tells Romper that because there are so many varieties of breasts and babies, a one size fits all approach won't work.
"The very best thing to do is follow baby's lead. If your baby has surpassed their birth weight, is over 2 weeks old, and if breastfeeding is going well, watching your baby for early and active feeding cues is the best and easiest way to go," Kunschke says.
She also adds that the only reason to watch the clock is to be sure that you aren't going too long between the start of one feeding session to the start of another. "Ideally the intervals would not be longer than three hours," Kunschke notes.
According to Rachel O'Brien, IBCLC, parents should remember that breast milk is baby's entire source of food and drink.
"As adults, we don't schedule our hunger or thirst, so why do we expect babies to? If I'm thirsty, I never think twice about getting myself some water, and my older kids can have a drink any time they need to. Breastfed babies should be able to do the same," O'Brien says.
According to La Leche League International (LLLI), some babies can breastfeed every hour, and some every four hours, and still thrive. They noted that in the first few weeks, babies can breastfeed from 10 to 12 times per day, and their feedings will gradually space out as they grow. LLLI also explained that babies under 6 weeks old should feed at least every two to three hours to prevent poor weight gain.
LLLI also recommended on their website that rather than watching the time, moms should look for signs that their baby is hungry, which include rooting reflex, chewing or sucking on hands or fingers, or crying.
Taking cues from your baby, rather than the clock, can help take the guess work out of scheduling, and ensure your baby is being fed right when they need it. (It's also one less thing to worry about in your day.)