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:

  • The actual searching for a breast, most commonly referred to as 'Rooting'.
  • Movements of the hand to the mouth, or actual hand-sucking.
  • Signs of increased alertness, or restlessness.

Ideally the only situation in which the on-demand schedule might be circumvented is the period right after childbirth. While some maternity wards insisting on waking up new mothers every 2-3 hours to breastfeed again, given what we know about sleeplessness, stress and post-partum depression, this may be a step too far. For those first very important hours, keeping a 'unscheduled feeding schedule' doesn't seem very natural.

Other important tips for newborn food routines:

  • It's important to be aware of you newborn's weight, but also what that means. Whilst you may be aware that babies lose weight after delivery, breastfed babies evidently lose more (due to less milk being produced after birth). However this weight loss should stop within a few days, with birth weights returning in the first or second week.
  • Watch the nappy too. Newborns ideally should urinate six times a day, with a clear or pale yellow colour to it. If it's less frequently or taking on a dark yellow or perhaps orange colour, it may be that they're not getting enough milk.
  • Don't be too alarmed if there's a change in your baby's feeding 'rhythm'. If you're adhering to an on-demand routing, your milk production will speed up or slow down to their hunger levels, so follow their lead. The reason for a change in hunger could be a growth spurt or possibly an incoming illness (meaning your baby will instinctively be trying to get more antibodies in your milk).
Products to help with frequent feeding

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.

Post By Graham

Graham Ashton