Before you read this, please understand, I am NOT trying to persuade anyone to schedule their breastfeedings. I am giving this information for anyone who WANTS to breastfeed on a schedule (or routine). What I do in breastfeeding and what you do in breastfeeding might be two entirely different things, and that is okay.
I’ve provided this to you as information, not as medical advice. Every child and mom will be different. Please ask your child’s doctor about your own specific circumstances.
I am in the homestretch with my second daughter, Bella. She is one in less than a month, and I plan to stop breastfeeding her right around her first birthday. I breastfed Sofía for one year as well.
In my experience, breastfeeding is what you want it to be. If you want it to work out, it probably will. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, however.
I did not supplement with formula for either of my girls (except for a brief 1.5 week period while Sofía was in the NICU and after she came home until I could wean her from it). Thus, the schedules I present below will be for an exclusively breastfed baby.
Sofía was sent to the NICU soon after her birth, and she was put on a feeding schedule right away. I had to go to the NICU to feed her every 3 hours, and she had less than 1 hour to complete her feeding. In fact, she was supposed to finish within 1/2 hour, but that rarely happened. Because of that experience as a first-time mom, I kept to a schedule for both of my babies. It might not have been the best way to do it, but it’s what I knew.
It is extremely important to remember that newborns have small stomachs. They will be hungry often. Learn what a baby’s hunger cues are and then feed your baby when she shows those signs. A baby crying for food means he has been hungry for a while.
Breastfeeding will be hard and there might be pain, but there are ways to stay motivated even when you just want to quit.
I did not breastfeed on a strict schedule. I followed a routine that was ultimately led by my babies. When they were going through a growth spurt, I would switch to demand feeding. In fact, with Sofía, I was feeding her nearly every hour around 2 months old. She was so ravenous and would cry and cry just 1/2 hour after feeding.
I tried not to comfort nurse with my babies, mainly because I had heard that it was not a good idea. However, I’ve since learned that there are actually wonderful benefits if you do this. It might be hard if you have more than one child, but do what you can.
Schedule for Breastfeeding a Newborn
From the beginning, I let my babies drink as long as they wanted. For Sofía this meant upwards of 40 minutes. In contrast, Bella was in and out of there in less than 15 minutes.
As newborns, my girls followed a schedule, similar to this one, where they were fed every 2-3 hours:
You can see that I fed my babies up to 9 times per day. Many babies feed up to 12 times a day. The schedule really depended on how well they were sleeping and if they were showing their hunger cues or not.
The amount of time in between feedings will ultimately depend on the baby. I remember Sofía was pretty good about going every 3 hours unless she was going through a growth spurt, but Bella was stuck on the 2 hour schedule for a very long time.
Once I knew my babies were gaining weight at their first appointments at 2 weeks, I would put them to sleep after the 12 am feeding and wouldn’t feed them until morning unless they woke up during the night. It wasn’t until they were around 6 or 8 weeks that they slept longer through the night, so I was waking up to feed them most nights.
FYI – Feedings are calculated from the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next feeding. So if you feed your baby at 6 am, the next time you will feed them, if you are doing every 2 hours, is 8 am. They might drink for a good 45 minutes, and then you have to feed them again 1 hour and 15 minutes later.
Schedule for Breastfeeding a 3 month old
By about 3 months, both girls were pretty much sleeping through the night. Sofía still had one or two nights per week that she’d wake up in the night, but Bella was my champion sleeper. She still sleeps through the night unless she’s sick or teething.
Both of my girls were drinking every 2.5-3 hours at 3 months:
After the last feeding, usually around 11 pm, I would put them to bed and cross my fingers. Sometimes it worked. Other times, I was in for a long night.
By this time, if they woke up in the night, I would try to get them to go back to sleep before offering breastmilk.
Schedule for Breastfeeding a 6 month old
At around six months, I tried to spread feedings out to every 3 hours. At this point, I was introducing solids to my babies, but only once per day. I tried to feed them the solids in the morning so if there was an allergic reaction to the new food, I’d find out during the day and not in the middle of the night.
This is a sample 3 hour schedule for my 6 month old babies. The solid food would come about 1 to 1.5 hours after the first feeding of the day.
9 am – solids
If you are going to do a routine, you will have to be very flexible. The first few weeks and months will likely be a lot like demand feeding. Your milk supply will need to be established, so it will be better to let your baby decide when to eat than for you to decide.
I’m not a very organized/scheduled person by nature, but I feel it is so much better to be a bit scheduled with kids to make things go smoother. I hope these schedules can help you figure out the best routine to set for feeding your own baby!
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