For a new parent, the newborn feeding schedule is likely to be a matter of prime concern – how much does baby need, how often, for how long; and so on. All of this can be confusing and baffling for new parents to say the least.
What is a newborn feeding schedule supposed to be?
In the first few weeks the size of a baby’s stomach is really tiny and very small amounts of breast milk or formula may feed it up. For this reason newborn babies may need to be fed about 8 to 12 times a day; or every one and a half to three hours if they are breast fed. Formula fed babies may demand less frequent feedings because formula takes more time for digestion than mother’s milk and tends to stay in the baby’s system longer.
On demand or on schedule?
Since babies need frequent feeds for the first few weeks, parents often face the dilemma – should they wait for baby to demand a feed (demand feeding) or should they offer feeds at regular intervals (scheduled feeding)?
Some babies can be very “good” and may sleep for long periods at a time; should parents wake them up for a feed?
In the early weeks there may be two reasons for having some kind of newborn feeding schedule – firstly regular stimulation is important to establish milk supply in the mother.
Secondly just because a baby doesn’t wake up doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is not hungry. Though most babies will bawl when hungry, some may not and not getting regular feeds may in some cases mean dehydration for the baby.
Having said this however, it is important to follow the baby’s lead since most babies are well able to communicate when they are hungry and there is usually no requirement to wake them up for feedings. A good pointer of whether the feeding schedule is working is if the baby is having more than 8 wet diapers a day and is gaining weight as per requirement.
What can a newborn feeding schedule depend upon?
The age of a new born is a factor – more frequently to begin with and less frequently as baby grows and milk supply is established. The height and birth weight of a baby also influences the feeding schedule. The time of day could also be a factor or when and how often a baby demands a feed. How much did the baby consume at the time of the last feeding and how much time has passed since the last feeding is also important. Quite simply at times babies want more (growth spurt) and at others they are less interested in feeding.
So what should a newborn feeding schedule look like?
In the early weeks, offer the breast every 2 hours or so, and let the baby take as much as he or she wants. Let the baby suckle at the breast for about 20 minutes, and then offer the other breast. Let the baby nurse for as long as possible. At first this may seem as though it is all the time; but soon baby will settle and it will have been worth the effort; establishment of successful breastfeeding.