Despite all the hype about on-demand infant feeding, I have to say I like my system better. I still feed my baby when she is hungry, but we have been working on a general schedule. After Eliana was born about a month ago, she wanted to eat about every two hours and had a couple of cluster feedings a day (where she would eat a little at a time over a couple hour period). This lasted four or five days. Breastfeeding was off to a good start.
My trick is to not let her go more than three hours without nursing during the day. Sometimes she wants to eat earlier and, of course, I feed her. It helps to have one of those “Milk Bands” to keep track of the last time she ate and how long she fed (they also help moms keep track of which side baby last nursed from). At night, I let her sleep as long as she wants and just feed her when she wakes up. But, during the day, I will wake her up to nurse her once we hit the three hour mark. And sometimes, even if she is awake, she may not cry to nurse and I’ll feed her anyway by three hours.
So, using this method, we have slowly been working to get on a schedule. For the second time in my life, this has worked beautifully for me and my children. Using this system, my son was sleeping seven hours a night by five weeks. And Eliana is already sleeping around six hours a night at four weeks. She is growing and gaining well. And I’m starting to get a little more sleep each day.
Some of the added benefits of getting a baby on a schedule like this are 1) I know that if she fusses an hour after she ate that she is likely fussing about something else, 2) more sleep for me!, 3) we can start getting in a routine again (which is especially helpful for my toddler and for preparing me to go back to work), 4) baby is happier because her metabolism is developing a routine, 5) I can plan outings and appointments easier so that I can anticipate when she will likely need to nurse again – this is especially helpful for doctor’s appointments so that she isn’t suddenly starving right as we walk in the door, or worse, during the appointment. And 6) I feel like I can better handle all the chaos and emotions of a new addition to our family because I know what to expect throughout the day and night. No matter how tired I am during our night-time or morning feedings, I know that I am likely to be able to sleep for at least an hour (and quite possibly two) after she’s done eating. That helps me get through and retain some sanity!
I’d love to hear from other moms about your experiences and how you managed these early weeks! I know there are a lot of different philosophies out there and different systems work for different families. Tell me about what worked for you!