Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Early Breastfeeding Obstacles Part #4- Scheduled Feedings

#4 Scheduled Feedings - although a schedule may work with an older child, trying to impose a feeding schedule on a newborn could be a recipe for disaster. Feeding on demand is most certainly a must during those first weeks. If anyone tries to tell you 10-15 minutes per boob every 2 hours and no variance from that - they are confusing a newborn baby and new lactating boobs with ones that already have a supply and relationship going.

During the first 6 weeks of nursing, a new mothers milk supply is just being established. If a new mother tries to put her baby on a schedule, every 2 or 3 hours for only a limited amount of nursing time, this could dramatically affect her milk supply. "Limited feedings by following a schedule during this critical time can limit or reduce a mother's milk supply," says Nancy Mohrbacher, an international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) in Arlington Heights, Ill., and co-author of The Breastfeeding Answer Book (La Leche League International, 1997), "Also, babies are not normally comfortable feeding at set intervals during their first six weeks, because their stomachs are so small."

I remember one night, around 4 weeks after my first daughter came home I had fed her expressed breast milk in a bottle and 1.5 hours later she was screaming again. NOTHING I did made her happy. I was on the verge of a mental break down and called my husband sobbing that he had to come home! Finally, after about 20 minutes, I fed her again and she calmed down. My husband came home to two fast asleep girls, very confused and I'm sure, slightly annoyed. But I had been told at the NICU where she'd been that babies eat every 3 hours. The end. It's important to remember that during this time, babies go through several important growth spurts. During the first few days at home, around 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, and 4-6 weeks are common growth spurts that happen--so that's FOUR important growth spurts that happen in the first 6 weeks. When a baby experiences a growth spurt, they often cluster feed which tells your body to make more milk. If you're trying to keep a baby on a schedule and not allowing them to cluster feed, you're not allowing your body to make the milk that baby is telling your body she needs. It drives me nuts when doctors tell new mamas that babies eat every 3 hours and don't mention that babies go through growth spurts or, gasp, that many breastfed babies eat far more often then every 3 hours.

One more thing about feeding for a certain amount of time (ie. 20 minutes each side and switch) is that baby might not be getting enough hindmilk, which is the thick calorie filled milk that baby gets towards the end of the feeding. If you switch breasts too soon, baby might not be getting that fat filled hindmilk. You want to make sure baby completely finishes one side before moving to the next breast. For many newborn babies, this means that a full feeding will come from one breast.

Solution: The key thing that we need to remember is this: every baby is different. Some breastfed babies MAY eat every 3 hours, on the hour. And some may eat every hour. It's extremely important to pay attention to baby's hunger cues (see a chart from Kelly Mom below) and to allow baby to nurse as often, and for as long, as they wish. If a well meaning friend, family member or medical professional tells you that your baby is eating too much, so you must not be producing enough milk, tell them to stuff a sock in it. By nursing on demand, your baby is telling your body what she needs and in turn, your body will respond with making the amount of milk that she needs. Aren't breasts cool? Somtimes this will mean you are camped out on the couch for a few hours with a baby at the boob (story of my life these days!). Grab the remote, a snack, a big bottle of water and relax.
We here at TGL, and everywhere else who knows what they're talking about, will always tell you:
If baby is having wet diapers and gaining weight, baby is getting enough to eat!!

  • Smacking or licking lips
  • Opening and closing mouth
  • Sucking on lips, tongue, hands, fingers, toes, toys, or clothing
  • Rooting around on the chest of whoever is carrying him
  • Trying to position for nursing, either by lying back or pulling on your clothes
  • Fidgeting or squirming around a lot
  • Hitting you on the arm or chest repeatedly
  • Fussing or breathing fast
  • Moving head frantically from side to side
  • Crying


  1. Great post! Every mother needs to know this!

  2. I need to be reminded of that last bold part all the time. Now that baby girl is 3 months old and we're passed all those initial cluster feedings I panic a little that she only nurses 6-7 times a day. But then I remember to tell myself to SHUT UP because she is getting more than enough. :)

  3. I agree Amy. I wish breastfeeding education was automatic in every hospital and that they TOLD this stuff to moms!!!