The reality of breastfeeding and raising kids in America is that we have kids and they are to fit into the lives we already have somehow. The true reality, however, is that babies shouldn’t have to conform to our schedule and the breastfed baby should not be on a feeding schedule.
Why you should forgo the baby feeding schedule regardless of how old your baby is
There are three reasons a baby breastfeeds:
They are hungry.
They are thirsty.
They need comforting.
So when we have babies and society, our next door neighbor, mom, grandma, and even many doctors and nurses are pushing for you to feed every 3 hours, that’s a minimum and it should not be a schedule. Babies don’t know how to tell time and they sure don’t know how to follow a schedule. So by all means, pick up your baby when s/he’s crying and feed your baby if s/he keeps crying. And I am not just talking about the newborn stage. As long as your child is actively breastfeeding, offer it to them. (The AAP and the WHO recommend to exclusively breastfeed until a minimum of 6 months and to continue with breast milk to a minimum a of 12 months to two years respectively).
When we as adults are hungry and munchy, we will eat. When we are thirsty, we will drink. When we are hurt and not feeling well, we need comforting. And heaven forbid anyone tell us that they won’t give us that glass of water we asked for when feel parched. Furthermore, we are not growing or developing like babies are, nor do we have such a rapid metabolism.
This is not to say that formula fed babies should be fed on demand. Formula does not metabolize in a baby’s system like breast milk does. Breast milk is digested quickly inside of a child’s stomach and breast milk is the direct effect of hormone communication between mom and baby. This creates heightened responsiveness in the mom to her child, even at an older age and even at night. A breastfeeding mom is designed to respond instinctively to her baby’s cues and needs.
The breastfeeding relationship, therefore, is threatened when we try to regulate it by trying to put a baby on a schedule. Many moms talk about their low milk supply and the first things I typically ask them is “are you trying to keep baby on a feeding schedule?”. Almost every time the answer is yes. Mom and baby feed off of each others’ cues to both produce and consume milk. Plus, it’s an opportunity give them all those brain boosting fats you can while you can and even antibodies to keep them healthy.
So the short of the question “Should I keep a baby feeding schedule?” is an emphatic no.
So the next time your baby cries and you look to see what time it is and if it’s time to feed or not, just imagine all it says is “baby” and that it’s always time to nourish and comfort your kiddo.
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Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!