The subject of feeding schedules for the youngest of babies has been a topic of strict debate and abrupt change over the last century. Whilst originally regimented and rigid, newer evidence has favoured routines that cater the baby's demands and timely dictations. Knowing why this happens, how best to approach it and the consequences of using the wrong newborn baby food routine is extremely important, hence why we've covered all of them in this guide.
The case for frequency in newborn feeding
There's a great deal of benefits for newborns - babies less than month old - who are fed to an on-demand breastfeeding service. A higher frequency schedule helps babies compensate for the lower caloric density of colostrum - the milk produced in the first few days post-partum - resulting in breast milk that's higher in protein and more beneficial for greater weight gain.
The instinctual, biological relationship between mothers and their babies also gains bountiful benefits from this arrangement. Frequent feedings increase a mother's prolactin levels, reducing the time it takes for a woman's milk to come in encouraging a continuing milk supply. Strict feeding schedules start out promising, but the mix supplies slowly dwindle and before long weaning is required. Obviously different women have varying breast milk storage capacities, however even mothers who can't feed their baby enough at one time to keep them content for 3-4 hours need not worry about this if they allow them nurse whenever they indicate that they're hungry.
A demand-style feeding schedule also helps to account for demanding differences in babies. Not only do some newborns require a higher daily caloric intake, others have much high sucking strength and quickness in emptying a breast. In cases where little ones require longer feeding bouts - true of premature and lower birth weight babies - a scheduled feeding routine just doesn't provide the flexibility to match their lack of strength to suck efficiently. Always allow as much time as possible at the breast, or even the bottle, as cutting it short may deprive your child of the high fat milk.
Both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and American Academy of Paediatric advise parents to feed newborns "whenever they show signs of hunger" and dismiss regimented feeding schedules as not only ineffective, but harmful too.
How do you know when to feed?
Newborns get more to eat and gain more weight when fed 8-12 times a day on an on-demand schedule, as opposed to a more strict ever 3-4 hours approach. But how do you identify signs of hunger? Naturally every newborn is different, not only in how often they nurse but in their own individual hunger cues too. There are three major signs that they're ready to feed, but before you reach for the obvious, note that crying is NOT one of them and is actually a late sign of hunger. The actual three are:
Other important tips for newborn food routines:
We offer a range of products to help with breastfeeding and frequent feeding. One of these key products is a breastfeeding pillow. These help to keep you and your baby comfortable during feeding by supporting baby’s body.
With breastfeeding comes the inevitable downsides such as soreness around the nipple and feeling uncomfortable. Our hot & cold breast therapy pads, nursing pads and creams can help soothe sore breasts so you can continue feeding. If you have inverted nipples or your baby struggles to latch, our latch assist could help make latching easier, reducing stress for you and baby.
For our full list of breastfeeding accessories, click here.