Three square meals a day (and a snack here and there) has probably been your feeding routine since you were a toddler. While most new parents understand their infant isn’t going to feed on an adult’s timetable, many are surprised at how often their baby needs to be fed. Scheduling breastfeeding is an important part of adapting to life with an infant.
Infants have tiny hands, feet and faces. They also have tiny stomachs. Because their tummies are small, infants can’t eat much at a time, requiring them to eat frequently. Newborns typically eat eight to 12 times a day, which means they need to be breastfed every two or three hours.
It’s best not to force a schedule on your baby’s feeding needs when she’s a newborn. Instead, respond to her need for more milk, letting her determine her needs. Be receptive to your baby’s hunger signals: Babies move their tongue or lips, clench their fists near their face and turn their faces toward objects next to them when they’re hungry. It’s only after they remain hungry for an extended period that they begin to cry.
Breast milk is easier for baby to digest than formula, which means breastfeeding families will need to feed more frequently.
Scheduling Breastfeeding Successfully
Once you get a feel for how often your baby needs to be fed, work to keep him on schedule. Some babies are heavy sleepers and won’t wake when they’re hungry. During the first two or three weeks of breastfeeding, wake your baby through the night if he’s sleeping through his schedule. Mothers need to establish a feeding pattern in order to continue to express milk regularly.
Also keep an eye on how long baby feeds. Some infants feed quickly, while others may require up to a half hour to feed. If your baby routinely takes more than 40 minutes to feed, it may be a signal that baby’s sucking skills or your milk supply is low. Contact your doctor to ensure baby is getting the food he needs.