New babies eat a lot which, arguably, is the understatement of the year. It's no secret that adjusting to your baby's dietary needs can be easier said than done, and a significant loss of sleep will probably be part of the process. For moms who breastfeed their babies, wanting to know the best breastfeeding schedule for babies can seem like a necessary way to simplify your new-mom life.
Getting your baby on a feeding schedule, although it can be helpful, is actually a bit of a heated and highly-debated topic in the breastfeeding world. Most proponents of exclusive nursing claim that putting your baby on a strict nursing schedule can actually do more harm than good. For example, La Leche League International (LLLI) claimed that rigid feeding schedules can inhibit a parent's ability to feed their baby based on when they seem hungry.
Some form of a schedule, however, is arguably necessary for most moms to keep their sanity intact and ensure that their baby is eating enough to stay healthy. So what option is best? Should you schedule your baby's life away or focus on reading their cues to keep them happy and full? It turns out that a combination of both may be the best answer.
According to Parents, new parents are encouraged to allow their baby to set the feeding schedule, especially in the beginning. Since every mom's milk supply is different and every baby's body needs different things, learning your baby's hunger cues right off the bat is actually a great way to establish an effective feeding schedule that you can both rely on.
Belly Belly noted that the most common hunger cues your baby may exhibit are licking or smacking lips, rooting around for the breast, getting fidgety, sucking on their hands or other toys, or trying to get into a nursing position. Crying, it turns out, is a late hunger sign that shows your baby is ready to eat as soon as possible.
Once you've learned your baby's hunger cues, you'll be able to keep track of how often they get hungry (which, of course, will vary as they grow), and establish a "loose schedule" for their nursing sessions. According to the Baby Sleep Site, newborns who nurse well and are at healthy weights usually need to eat every two to three hours, around the clock, for the first two months or so. It's also worth noting that breastfed newborns should eat eight to 12 times per day, according to Kids Health, because breast milk digests much quicker than formula. After three or four months, however, your baby will begin to eat more at each feeding, which means your nursing sessions will be further apart. At this point, nursing seven to nine times per day, or every four hours, is typical.
Don't let the thought of putting baby on a rigid schedule stress you out. Instead, use their natural hunger cues, and research on the best spacing between feedings, to create a schedule that works best for your lifestyle and your baby's needs.