Breastfeeding and Scheduling

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!

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One Response to Breastfeeding and Scheduling

  1. d says:

    Hi Rach,
    Didn’t notice your post until today. So happy breastfeeding is going well for you – and having Eliana sleep through the night. Those milk bands sound like a great idea too! I really admire how you’ve exclusively breastfed as a busy mom with a toddler and a demanding job.
    Over here, I have been a feeding-on-demand mommie from about the time M. got jaundice her first month or so. For me, it’s worked out best because my schedule changes so much that it was hard to plan things around the baby (and I wanted to be confident that her needs were being met at day care). One book that was influential for me, although I didn’t actually read it – just got the main ideas, was the “No Cry Sleep Solution.” Basically, it involves letting your baby eat and sleep whenever he or she pleases and noting the pattern as a starting point. It’s a simple idea that enabled me to expect when M. would generally be tired or hungry and to respond to that. I noticed that M. ate a lot in the mornings and evenings in particular – hourly, in fact – but not so much during the midday, when she tended to nap. There were a couple of times that she really caught me off guard as she just seemed to want to eat all the time – around the 6-week, 3 month, and 6 month growth spurts as they say. In general though, feeding on demand has become more or less predictable. I suppose it’s helped a lot to supplement with formula too so that I don’t have to worry about pumping or going a whole day without BFing her if I have to for my job. It’s odd to think that introducing formula has allowed me to maintain BFing longer than if I had tried to do it exclusively. It’s such a hard but rewarding thing. I hope you’re able to continue nursing Eliana for many, many months to come.

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