Strict baby Feeding Schedule
In the first half of the twentieth century, babies were usually kept on very strict, regular baby feeding schedule. Doctors did not know the cause of the serious intestinal infections that afflicted tens of thousands of babies with severe diarrhea yearly. It was believed that these infections were caused not only by the contamination of milk but also by wrong proportions in the formula and irregularity in feeding.
Strict regularity worked well enough with a majority of babies. When they had an ample feeding at breast or bottle, it lasted them for two to four hours, because that is the way a young baby’s digestive system usually works.
But there were always a few babies who had trouble adjusting to regularity in the first month or two: babies whose stomachs couldn’t seem to hold four hours’ worth of milk, babies who went to sleep halfway through feedings, restless babies, colicky babies. They would cry miserably every day, but their mothers and doctors dared not give them—even pick them up—off baby feeding schedule. This was hard enough on the babies. It was probably harder still on the parents.
With pasteurization of milk in the commercial dairy and the availability of clean, safe water, severe diarrhea became much less of a problem for babies. But it took many more years before doctors dared to experiment with flexible schedules.
The first experiments in self-demand feeding were carried out by Dr. Preston McLendon, a psychologist, and Frances P. Simsarian, a new mother, on Mrs. Simsarian’s new baby. They wanted to find out what kind of baby feeding schedule babies would establish if they were breast-fed whenever they seemed hungry. The baby awoke infrequently the first few days. Then, from just about the time the milk began to come in, he awoke surprisingly often—about ten times a day—in the second half of the first week. Then by the age of two weeks he had settled down to six or seven feedings a day, at irregular intervals. By ten weeks he had arrived at a schedule of being fed at 2-to-4-hour intervals.
They called this an experiment in self-demand feeding. Since that experiment in 1942, there has been a general relaxation in baby feeding schedule, which has had a wholesome effect on babies and parents. It’s now recognized that the average number of hours between feedings for a breast-fed baby in the first two weeks of life is two. But some babies will nurse every three hours and some as often as every hour and a half.
What regularity and scheduling are all about
Most babies have a natural tendency to establish a regular pattern of feeding and sleeping. Though the intervals between feedings may vary within each 24-hour period, they’ll tend to be consistent from one day to the next. The pattern will change as the baby grows, and periods of wakefulness will become more prolonged and filled with activity. Through the parents’ guidance, this pattern is shaped into a baby feeding schedule, which helps both baby and parents move into a comfortable and predictable rhythm.
Scheduling doesn’t necessarily mean feeding every four hours or every three hours, though some babies and families do arrive at that kind of strict baby feeding schedule. Some newborns seem to come out of the hospital already set at a 2-to-4-hour feeding interval. Others seem to fashion a schedule of their own, though it may take a few weeks for them to become consistent about it.
At some times in the day, babies seem hungrier than at others and want to eat more frequently. For much of the time, they awaken to eat every hour and a half to four hours. They may have a 5-hour sleep period, which may come as easily during the day as at night. They may have a stretch of fretfulness lasting several hours, which usually occurs in the early evening.
During these hours the breast-fed baby is happy if she is almost continuously at the breast and will cry if she is put down. A bottle-fed baby may act hungry but if offered a bottle not eat much. She may suck avidly at the pacifier. Some unhappy parents say that their newborns “have their days and nights switched.” These babies will sleep like a log during the day and are almost impossible to arouse. .
In the early weeks the period of longer sleep tends to shift to nighttime. The evening fussiness gradually improves over the first few months, though it may seem to take forever. During the first few months, times for eating, playing, and even fussing alternate predictably with daytime sleeping.
By comparison, a baby approaching her first birthday usually sleeps through the night, though she may awaken early for a breast-or bottle-feeding, then return to sleep for an hour or two. She eats three meals and a couple of snacks, has a nap or two, and goes to sleep at a reasonable hour, often after a last breast-or bottle-feeding.
How do all these changes happen in a year? It isn’t only what the parents do. It’s the baby herself, gradually lengthening the time between feedings and shortening the sleep periods. With her own maturation, she just naturally tends to fit into the family’s schedule.
Establishing a baby feeding schedule
The main consideration for babies is that they not have to cry with hunger for long periods or feel uncared for. All babies have a tendency to develop a regular baby feeding schedule of becoming hungry. This will come much more rapidly if the parents guide them a bit. Babies don’t mind at all being awkward for a feeding after an interval of three or four hours.
Smaller babies tend to eat more frequently than bigger babies. They all tend to gradually lengthen the interval between feedings as they grow bigger and older. Breast-fed babies on average eat more often than bottle-fed babies, because breast milk is digested more easily and quickly than cow’s milk or soy formulas. By one, two, or three months of age, babies come to realize they don’t need the middle-of-the-night feeding and give it up. Somewhere between the fourth and twelfth month, they will be able to sleep through the feeding at the parents’ bedtime, too.
In these tendencies—to more regular and fewer feedings—the baby can be greatly influenced by the parents’ management of baby feeding schedule. If during the day a mother wakes her baby boy whenever he’s still asleep four hours after the last feeding, she is helping him to establish regular daytime eating habits. If when he stirs and whimpers a couple of hours after the last feeding she holds back for a few minutes and gives him a chance to go back to sleep or offers a pacifier if he really wakens and cries, she is helping his stomach adjust to a longer interval. If, on the other hand, she always picks him up and feeds him promptly when he stirs, even when only shortly after the last feeding, she keeps him accustomed to short intervals and small feedings.
Individual babies differ widely in how soon they comfortably settle down to regular baby Feeding Schedule. A great majority of the ones who are good feeders, who aren’t too fussy, and who are getting plenty to drink from breast or bottle can be eased into a reasonably consistent baby feeding schedule and will give up the middle-of-the-night feeding a couple of months after birth.
On the other hand, if a baby is a listless, sleepy feeder at first or a restless, fretful waker, or if the breast-milk supply is not yet well established, it will be more comfortable for all concerned to go more slowly. But even in these cases, there will be less perplexity on the part of the parents every day—about whether to give a feeding right away or wait—and an earlier settling-down on the part of the baby if the parents are always working gently toward more regular feedings, with an average interval of 2 to 3 hours for breast-fed babies and 3 to 4 hours for bottle-fed ones.
Misunderstanding between self demand feeding and baby feeding schedule
There has been some misunderstanding about the relationship between self-demand feeding and baby Feeding Schedule. The main purpose of any baby feeding schedule is to do right by the baby. But another purpose is to enable the parents to care for their child in a way that will conserve their strength and spirits. This usually means getting down to a reasonable number of feedings at predictable hours and giving up the night feeding as soon as the baby is ready.
Some young parents, eager to be progressive, assume that if they get away from the rigid scheduling of the past they must go all the way in the opposite direction, feeding their baby any time she wakes and never waking her for a feeding. This may work out well enough if the baby is a peaceful one with a good digestion, if the parents don’t have to worry about their own schedules, and if they don’t mind being awakened between midnight and 6 a.m. (of course, very young babies will certainly need to be fed during these hours).
But if the baby happens to be a restless, fretful one, this approach can lead to a great many feedings and very little rest for the parents for several months. And in a few cases it encourages the baby to be still waking for a couple of night feedings even at the end of the first year.
If parents prefer to give something to eat to their baby on an irregular, self-demand baby feeding schedule for many months, there will be no harm done to the baby’s nutrition. It does no harm to the parents, either, if they’re people who just hate to do anything by the clock. But if they’re fairly regular about the rest of their lives and have other things to get done, the only thing to worry about is that they have gotten the idea that the more they give up for the baby the better it is for the child or that they have to prove that they are good parents by ignoring their own convenience. These attitudes tend to create difficulties in the long run.
How to work toward a regular baby feeding schedule
The easiest way to begin scheduling a baby is to wake her during the day if she is still asleep four hours after her last feeding. You won’t have to urge her to eat; she will probably act starvingly hungry in a few minutes.
But suppose she wakes an hour after her last feeding. You don’t have to give her the minute she whimpers. She herself is not sure whether she’s hungry. But if instead of settling back to sleep she fully wakens and starts crying hard, it does no good to wait any longer.
What if she starts a pattern of waking soon after each feeding? Perhaps she needs more to eat. If she is breast-fed, nursing her more frequently will increase the milk supply in a few days, so she’ll be able to take more at each feeding and again lengthen the time between feedings. (It’s important for the mother to take care of herself so that she can produce more milk as the baby needs it and hence prepare baby feeding schedule as per her comfort). If the baby is bottle-fed, increase each feeding by an ounce or more to see if that helps lengthen the intervals.
Just how soon should you give another feeding? If the baby who generally can go 3 to 4 hours awakens after 2 to 2 and a half hours and seems really hungry, it is all right to feed her then. But suppose she wakes an hour or so after her last feeding? If she finished her usual bottle at her last feeding, the chances are against her being hungry again so soon.
It is more likely that she has been awakened by indigestion. You might try burping her again or see whether she will be comforted by a couple of ounces of water or a pacifier. There is no rush to feed her again, though you may decide to try it in a little while if nothing else works.
You can’t be sure it’s hunger just because a baby tries to eat her hand or takes the bottle eagerly. Often a baby who is having colic will do both these things. It seems the baby herself can’t distinguish between colic pains and hunger pains.
In other words, you don’t have to feed a baby every time she cries. If she is crying at the wrong times, you have to study the situation. She may be wet or warm or cold; she may need to burp or be comforted, or she may just need to let out a few cries to release tension. If this keeps happening and you can’t figure it out, discuss the problem with your doctor or nurse practitioner.
The easiest rule for night feedings is not to waken your baby but to let him wake you if he wants to. A baby who still needs that feeding usually wakes surprisingly close to the hour of 2 a.m. Then some night, probably when he’s between two and six weeks old, he will sleep through until 3 or 3:30. Feed him then. The next night he may wake still later. Or he may wake, cry in a drowsy way, and go back to sleep if he is not fed right away.
When babies are ready to give up the middle-of-the-night baby feeding schedule, somewhere between 6 and 12 weeks, they usually do it in a hurry, in two or three nights. A breast-fed baby may nurse longer at his other feedings. For a bottle-fed baby, you may want to increase the amount in his other bottles to make up for the bottle he’s given up, if he wants the extra amount. Night feedings should be given quietly in a darkened room, in contrast to daytime feedings, which can be accompanied by more stimulation.
Giving up the middle-of-the-night feeding
If the baby reaches the age of two or three months and weighs 12 pounds but still wakes for a middle-of-the-night feeding, it’s sensible to try to influence him to give it up. Instead of hurrying to him as soon as he stirs, you can let him fuss for a little while. If he doesn’t quiet down but is instead soon crying furiously, apologize and feed him promptly. Then try again in another week or two. From a nutritional point of view, a 12-pound baby who eats well during the day doesn’t really need this baby feeding schedule.
The feeding at the parents’ bedtime is the one that you can probably time to your own convenience. Most babies, by the time they are a few weeks old, are perfectly willing to wait until 11 P.M. or even midnight for it. If you want to get to bed early, wake the baby at ten or even a little before. If a later feeding is more convenient, suit yourself, as long as the baby is willing to stay asleep.
For those babies who are still waking for middle-of-the-night baby feeding schedule, it’s best not to let them sleep through the ten or eleven o’clock feedings, even if they’re quite willing to do so. When they’re ready to give up one of them, you’ll want them to give up the middle-of-the-night feeding first, so that your sleep won’t be interrupted.
For those babies who are already off the middle-of-the-night feeding but are still irregular about their daytime feeding hours, I’d continue to wake them at 10 or 11 P.M., provided they’re willing to be fed. This at least ends the day on baby feeding schedule, helps very much to avoid a feeding between midnight and four and tends to encourage them to sleep until 5 or 6 the next morning.