Should You Or Baby Determine When To Nurse?

Modern life sometimes gets in the way of raising baby exactly the way your ancestors may have done back in the dark ages. It may also dictate whether or not you are able to breastfeed your baby at request.

woman breastfeeding baby

On-demand breastfeeding

On-demand breastfeeding simply refers to nursing baby when he shows interest in nursing… so feeding him every time he is rooting, reaches for the breast or otherwise shows signs of hunger or wanting to eat.

In the first weeks of life, baby will want to nurse on demand as much as possible. You may feel as though you are in a constant state of nursing. However, this will taper off as baby – and his tummy – grows. Only the size of a walnut at birth, his tiny tummy can only hold so much milk at one time!

If your newborn does not wake at least every three to four hours to nurse in the night, you'll want to closely watch his weight to make sure he is indeed gaining. Otherwise, it might be wise to wake baby in the night to nurse him to ensure he's getting enough nutrients throughout the night. This can be the only "scheduling' you'll need to do as an on-demanding nursing mom, as he'll likely not go longer than that three to four hour window during his waking hours.

Scheduled feedings

Today's hectic schedules mean we adhere to the clock for nearly everything. That often means you need to schedule baby's feedings as well. Scheduling your baby's feedings makes it easier for baby to become used to a specific time when he’ll get his milk. Scheduled feedings are ideal for caregivers of working moms or moms who need to be away from baby for long periods of time so they can give baby his bottles in intervals throughout the day when baby is expecting to eat.

If you plan to schedule baby's feedings, make sure you can be consistent with it, give or take a few minutes. Understand that as baby learns to recognize his eating pattern, he'll be expecting to eat on schedule. If you can't nurse on schedule for some reason, come prepared with a bottle.

There is no wrong or right when it comes to feeding baby on demand or on schedule – it really depends on what works best for you and your baby. Give any new feeding plan a few weeks to set in for both you and baby.

More on feeding baby

Transitioning baby from breast to bottle
2012 Breastfeeding report card released by the CDC
Bottle feeding tips for nursing moms


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