Inside you’ll find info on a newborn feeding schedules for the breastfeeding (or formula feeding) mom and how to make it work for you.
When my first baby was born I knew I needed a good routine.
I’m a predictable person, and the fact that I had a tiny human doing all manner of things I wasn’t familiar with, made me realize a need for some order.
For me to be a calm and settled mother, I decided to breastfeed on a schedule. I’m a big believer in mothering to your strengths.
As long as the baby’s needs are being met in a nurturing and loving way, why shouldn’t a mother order her day in a way that benefits everyone?
If you prefer to go with the flow, and you find peace and relaxation that way, go for it. But even as you do so, realize this…
➡️ Some mothers don’t love routines or schedules, but babies do.
The research is so overwhelmingly in favor of routines for young ones, it doesn’t hurt to give it a try!
If you want to breastfeed on a schedule, don’t listen to the naysayers and loud angry voices who say it isn’t possible. It’s very possible. It’s doable. Mothers around the world do it every day.
Even life with a newborn can be calm and predictable when you breastfeed on a schedule.
Must Know Info
#1 – If your baby is hungry, feed him.
Scheduling isn’t really about getting your baby to follow some arbitrary time for feeding.
It’s about feeding your baby in a way they get the calorie rich hind milk at each feeding (aka. a full feed) so they naturally go longer between feeds and don’t try to snack for 5 minutes every hour.
It’s also prevents you from constantly breastfeeding a baby 24/7 who snacks for five minutes then falls asleep for 20. I call this frequent feeds all together “cluster feeding by accident.”
We can aim for a schedule, but this bears repeating: if baby is hungry, feed him.
When you naturally give your baby full feeds they’ll fall into a predictable routine.
However, when they are hungry, going through a growth spurt, or just generally needing to feed and they are off schedule… feed them anyway.
All 5 of my babies naturally fell into a 2.5 – 3 hour feeding schedule from birth, but on occasions when they needed more milk at various times I just fed them.
Feed the baby when she’s hungry.
The Biggest Thing You Should Focus On…
I cannot tell you how important this is, no matter if your baby feeds at the breast or bottle.
Especially if your baby won’t sleep.
Watch this video below on why full feeds matter.
A general rule of thumb, feeding for at least 20 minutes usually means baby got a full feed.
#2 – Be flexible with your nursing times
Babies can easily adapt to a routine and follow it well, but there will be times – like when teeth are breaking through or time change or if they have some problems with reflux – where you need to be flexible.
As the saying goes…
“Blessed are the flexible, for they don’t break when bent.”
If you are from a certain area or country that promotes demand feeding and strongly discourages schedule feeding, do some little research on your own.
Often practitioners are concerned you’ll make the clock your master instead of simply using the clock to facilitate a nice routine.
It is not child abuse, cruelty or neglect to work towards a schedule and routine, it may be the best thing you can do for everyone, especially if you cannot cope with too much unpredictability.
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Examples That Work
After you’ve done that, begin with these suggested infant feeding times.
Note: Formula fed babies can probably go longer between feeds while breastfed infants will follow the schedule below.
⭐ Sample Newborn Feeding Schedule #1
- 7:00 am – full feed
- 8:10 am – wind down routine, nap
- 9:30 am – full feed
- 10:45 am – wind down, nap
- 12:00 pm – full feed, “play time”
- 1:30 pm – wind down, down for nap
- 3:00 pm – full feed, “play time”, bath time, family time, etc.
- 4:15 pm – wind down, nap
- 5:30 pm – full feed, family time
- 7:30 pm – cluster feed, wind down, down for nap
- 9:30 pm to 10:30 pm – dream feed (swaddled), immediately back down to bed
- Night feeds throughout the night as baby wakes up
⭐ Sample Newborn Feeding Schedule #2
- 4:30 am – feed baby swaddled (no lights on)
- 7:00 am – wake up, feed unswaddled (here’s why) in well lit area, play time
- 8:15 am – wind down routine, down for nap
- 10:00 am – full feed unswaddled
- 12:45 pm – wind down routine, down for nap
- 2:45 to 3:00 pm – full feed
- 4:15 pm – down for nap
- 5:30 pm – cluster feed
- 7:30 pm – cluster feed swaddled then immediately down for nap
- 9:30 pm to 10:00 pm – feed again swaddled, put immediately down to sleep
- Feed at night as baby wakes up
#3 – Monitor supply and demand, and adjust accordingly
With all five children I’ve been able to maintain an adequate milk production until nearly their first birthday, or longer if desired.
My two sons stopped breastfeeding just shy of one year because I’d become pregnant again, and the milk had changed.
But that’s another post.
My firstborn never fed for more than ten minutes at a time (and this is a full feed) and I was still able to maintain supply feeding 2.5-3 hourly and then as she slept through the night at 4 months.
This is without any extra pumping, expressing or tricks to keep up my milk supply.
It just naturally worked.
- Some mothers find their milk supply on the low side and need to more breastfeeding sessions to keep up supply.
- This may mean that scheduling is difficult for you unless you pump during the day.
- You’ll have to determine whether it’s more convenient for you to feed more frequently throughout the day (like with feedings clustered together), or if pumping and storing breast milk will be enough demand to keep up your supply.
- You’ll want to feed at minimum 8 baby feedings within 24 hours for those early weeks. See a detailed newborn routine here, a detailed newborn feeding schedule here, and a newborn sleeping schedule here.
When you drop a feed you may need to express or pump for a while to maintain your supply.
And, when babies begin sleeping through the night, much the same.
If baby is having a growth spurt, you will find your baby feeding more frequently, and this is a good thing. It means that your supply will build up to meet their need because, again, you always feed your baby when they’re hungry.
As with demand feeding, monitoring your milk supply may help you stop any issues before they progress.
#4 – Menstruation may return earlier, depending on the individual
Okay this is partially in jest, but something worth mentioning.
I followed a newborn breastfeeding schedule and my period returned anywhere from 3 months postpartum (though I kept feeding for a year minimum) to as late as 7 months postpartum.
That’s just how my body worked.
Nursing did NOT equal birth control.
If you’ve been around here for a while, you know I love talking about the pros and cons of having babies close together.
Perhaps the reason I was able to have babies close together while breastfeeding might be due to the fact that I feed on a schedule.
Meaning, less constant stimulation may produce less milk which can trigger menstruation. Enough milk to feed baby, yes!
Enough to stave off menstruation for a whole year? Perhaps not.
It might not be true for every mother, but it is something to consider.
It depends entirely on the woman, but in my experience, menstruation resumed long before I finished breastfeeding.
#5 – It’s not “selfish” to want predictability
People’s criticism of scheduling often revolve around two areas.
- That you’re a slave to the clock and don’t care if your baby is hungry.
- That the baby’s needs aren’t being met since you are worried about a routine instead of just meeting needs as they come.
We’ve already addressed the first concern since we agree to feed the baby when they show any sign of hunger.
If the routine doesn’t meet their needs, well, the routine gets changed.
If you are a routine oriented person and feel more confident, comfortable and calm in this setting, I recommend working towards a schedule.
Babies adapt well to the rhythm the mother sets, and as long as the baby is well-fed, well-rested and content, then you are on the right track.
➡️ A mother should feel free parent to her strengths so long as the baby’s needs are met in a nurturing and loving environment.
Benefits of feeding baby on a schedule
Part of why the adjustment to parenting is so difficult is the complete life change a mother goes through.
Wonderful? Of course.
With a newborn on a schedule your days are still, for the most part, predictable. You know when you’ll have time to cook dinner, have visitors, or take a nap.
Some days have their challenges, but for the most part you can rest easy knowing what the day will hold.
Easier to manage all children’s needs
Having had no experience in this area, I honestly don’t know how mothers of multiple children who demand feed newborns get through the day.
I would probably have a nervous breakdown on day 8. If you aren’t a go with the flow type of mother, you likely couldn’t handle it either.
When you have a schedule and routine you’re able to determine how you can meet everyone’s needs in a timely way.
The baby can be fed during playtime, naps, or outside time.
The family dynamic will certainly change, but having a routine means the baby isn’t the only one whose needs are met while everyone else just waits.
Newborn finds their place within the family instead of the family being completely baby centered
Inevitably life changes when a new baby enters the home.
And what a great change it is!
A new sibling to cuddle, a new baby to love, and a host of new needs to be met.
I believe it’s comforting to everyone when a newborn can come home to an orderly, peaceful, and well-run home.
Of course some days are bonkers and sometimes we lose it, but on the whole, a schedule allows for the family to continue running as a whole even with a newborn.
The mother meets the physical needs of the newborn and the older children while still maintaining order in the home. Everything doesn’t become all about the baby to the detriment of other family members.
The baby simply enters into the family who patiently waited for its arrival.
You’re able to schedule errands around feeding easily
The best way to develop good sleep habits with your baby is to let them sleep.
Without a schedule they are constantly in the stroller, car seat, or carrier being carted from one place to another.
This works fine for a few months until they are about 4 months old (and have a sleep regression) or 5 months old and they are gearing for solids. They start becoming more aware and then, if you haven’t done the hard work of sleep training up front, you’ll have a baby who doesn’t want to sleep.
Again, baby’s needs are being met while things are getting done at inconvenience to no one.
Routine helps everyone settle into the new norm.
The first few months postpartum can be a challenge for the entire family.
Children are learning new roles and adjusting as well as the parents.
Developing a new routine and schedule that benefits all will help everyone settle into the new norm. Because routines bring security and boundaries to children, they crave them.
When a major (and exciting) life change, like a new baby, occurs settling into a new routine is one of the best ways to help the dust settle.
It’s mentally and emotionally helpful for mothers who flourish in routine
I cannot stress strongly enough (oh if you could hear my real voice which gets very loud when I stress things enough) how important it is to parent how you were made.
If you love routine then I can’t see why you’d parent any other way.
Children get a sense of security from routines (source) naturally so if you feel calmer in a routine environment, the entire house will run more smoothly.
Stress, depression, and weariness are bi-products of functioning too long in environments we aren’t suited for, so don’t make your home one of those.
Basic Baby Sleep Times
Here are some basic baby sleep times. These will vary by baby, but it’s important to look at these and realize that babies sleep more than you think.
- Newborn to 2 months: 16-18 hours a day | 7 to 9 naps (one after each feed)
- 2-4 months: 15-17 hours a day | 4 to 5 naps (after each daytime feed)
- 4-6 months: 14-16 hours a day | 4 naps or so (probably dropping the last nap before bedtime)
- 6-9 months: 14-16 hours a day | 3 to 4 naps a day (eventually getting down to 2 naps a day)
- 9 – 12 months: 14-16 hours a day | 2 to 3 naps (eventually getting down to 2)
- 12-18 months: 14-15 hours a day | 2 naps a day (eventually getting down to 1 nap a day)
Handy tips for these early weeks
- Get on a good sleep routine
- Learn the signs of hunger for your baby, and use your routine to anticipate baby’s needs before he needs to cry.
- Set the foundation in the first days after birth by following these strategies.
- Remember that babies go through growth spurts at age 6 weeks of age and again at 3 months, so you will have to feed more (cluster feeding (feeding a few times close in time) works!) to increase your milk supply to get them through.
- A breastfed baby can also learn to take a bottle on and off, which will help if you have to run errands or need to be away on occasion.
- Your milk supply will ebb and flow throughout the day and is often at its lowest quality by late afternoon early evening, so cluster feedings will help this.
- Pay attention to the signs that your baby is over tired.
- The exact feeding time is not nearly as important as feeding on a routine or schedule. As in, every 3 hours is more important than feeding every day at 7:30 a.m. Both work well together, but if you hate working to a clock, aim for full feeds at set intervals.
- Note that many newborns will feed from 30 minutes up to even 45 minutes. I had one son who would feed for nearly an hour! Less than 15 minutes and that’s considered snacking, so aim for full feeds.
Let’s dive in.
“How often do you feed a newborn at night?”
As often as they wake up hungry. Before you go to bed, give a feed right before you go to sleep then lie down to sleep. Sleep until baby wakes up ready to eat.
“How many days after birth do I start on a routine or schedule?”
I like to start Day One. Your routine will mainly consist of full feeds, snuggling/cuddling, then putting baby down for a nap, but this is the foundation for all sleeping schedules to come.
“How do I keep my newborn awake during feeds?”
Unswaddle them, first of all. Then you can rub their cheeks, the bottom of their feet, and even use a wet wipe to keep them alert during feedings.
“Do I always need to nurse on both sides during each feeding?”
No. If you have a baby who wants to feed for one hour, you’ll likely end up nursing from both breasts. If you have a baby who has a “strong suck” (a fun term from my midwife) then you may end up only nursing from one side.
It’ll depend on your baby, your milk supply, and whether or not baby is truly getting full feeds.
My newborn is sleeping through feedings, what should I do?
So this can easily happen, these precious babies are so comforted by both your physical touch and the breastmilk, that they happily drift off.
This can also, if it happens throughout the day, contribute to significant daytime and nighttime confusion. Baby will sleep through feeds all day, then want to be up feeding or playing all night.
Download, print, and get baby on a feeding routine that works!
I’ve created a free email series just for you! If you struggle with creating an easy flowing routine or rhythm in your home… this is it. I’ve gathered all my easiest routine hacks into one free series and, best of all, you can get a big sneak peak into our book that has over 25+ routines for babies ages 6 weeks to 5 years. This series will help you:
- find a routine and rhythm for your child
- learn how to juggle multiple routines (for 2 or 3+ kids)
- know what is and isn’t working so you can make one tweak that’ll change your day
Click here to sign up for my free email series or simply click on the image below.
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