If you are a first-time mom nursing your newborn, one common concern you come across is the baffling concept of demand feeding VS scheduled feeding. Should you tune in with your baby’s needs or set a structured and predictable schedule? This is a concern for all new moms.
After all, this is the time babies grow faster than they will at any time of their lives. And you don’t want to mess with that with your need to set a schedule. But is scheduled feeding merely for your good? Is it good for your baby as well?
Read more and check out what we found on demand feeding and scheduled feeding.
Demand Feed VS Schedule Feeding
Demand feeding definition is feeding your baby when she/he needs to be fed. Babies show the cues for you to pick on and feed them as they would like. The time, interval, and amount of breastmilk fed —all of these depend on the baby. You feed on the demand of your baby. This is what has been followed by generations.
But don’t moms deserve a break? When you are a first-mom and you just gave birth, it may feel like your baby is feeding around the clock. All the time. And you feel drained, stressed, and guilty for feeling those emotions. Here comes scheduled feeding to bring some sort of resemblance of predictability in your life that has just been turned upside down.
Scheduled feeding means feeding your baby in regularly spaced intervals of 3 or 4 hours. Consistent feeding with a fairly predictable schedule. This usually gives moms time to do things other than breastfeeding, making scheduled feeding the best option for moms. But, what about the baby? Is scheduled feeding good for the baby? To put it bluntly, imposing a rigid schedule on an infant does not sound like the best solution.
Breastfeeding(1) is instinctual for babies. Generally, babies in their first few weeks feed 8 to 12 times a day with intervals of 2 to 3 hours. Young babies have tiny stomachs and they fill up pretty quickly. Along with that, another fact to consider is that breast milk digests and absorbs quicker than you would expect.
So this combination makes the feeding more often than you were expecting. But although tiring for moms, it is normal and healthy. In fact, you can never breastfeed too much, only too little. So regardless of how often your baby puts out the signals of hunger, you have to breastfeed until your baby is satisfied. When you stick to scheduled feeding, this may not be possible.
What Is The Best Way To Feed Your Baby?
Among demand feeding and scheduled feeding, which one is better for your baby? The clear cut to this question is: it depends on your baby as well as his or her age. For a newborn, you cannot possibly think of succeeding at scheduled feeding. Because breastfeeding is more than about being fed. Rather, it links to all things like nutrition, growth, development, and even the baby’s IQ(2).
According to a 2012 study in “European Journal of Public Health,” school-age children who were breastfed on-demand as babies showed significantly higher IQs than other children who were fed on schedule.
Research shows that feeding on demand makes babies feel less stressed, more secure, and leads to better cognitive outcomes. Also, the most natural bonding between a mother and a baby occurs during breastfeeding. Moreover, psychologists suggest demand feeding for newborn babies to help them trust to have their needs met.
Would you want your baby to finally come out to the world to not meet his or her basic need for food when hungry?
In the first year, your baby has exceptionally high-calorie needs in proportion to the tiny body size. And babies typically increase in weight by 200% in the first year and quadruple by 24 months. The reason for this growth is the good feeding practices. So, you have to give your baby the demanded milk until they are fully fed and satisfied.
Yes, as a first-time mom, your emotions may be all over the place especially if you are hitting postpartum depression. Your emotions are heard, loud and clear. It is difficult to go through such colossal changes. But finding a solution that works for the baby until they naturally structure their behavior regarding feeding is crucial in the first few weeks. If you try to push them to cater to your needs when they are not ready, a mix of cranky baby and stressed-out mama would be the ultimate result.
Watch your baby, not the clock
Feeding your baby on demand essentially means not worrying about the clock. This will certainly make moms feel overworked and overwhelmed along with decreased ovulation, soreness of nipples, and breast engorgement. But it all passes. Because there is always a light at the end of the tunnel! How do you think all the mothers in the world manage to do it?
Gradually, both the baby and the mom become accustomed to the scheduled feeding pattern when it naturally occurs. Or, you can try to learn how to breastfeed in a carrier if you find it difficult to demand feed, especially when you are glued to the couch or bed while feeding and you feel it is all you do. This helps you to do things other than feeding.
What Are the Benefits of Demand Feeding?
Human breast milk is found to become richer and more nutritious when demanded by a baby. Besides that, when you compare demand feeding and scheduled feeding(3), the benefits of the former are many.
From tuning with our baby’s needs without having to look at the time to not timing the feed, allowing the baby to have food when hungry without having to follow a schedule. But that’s not all. Here are the rest of the benefits of demand feeding you have to know:
- The more you put your baby to breast, the better your milk supply. A good rhythm of breastfeeding with a baby ensures an adequate milk supply.
- Demand feeding ensures that your baby will get enough milk to grow with enough nutrition.
- Caters the individual needs of your baby, especially from such a young age.
- Improved long-term cognitive benefits.
- Your baby doesn’t get cranky being hungry waiting for a feed.
- Allows the baby to be in control.
- Don’t withhold nurturing, warmth, and comfort of breastfeeding from your baby.
- Allows adjusting to baby’s needs through growth spurts naturally.
- There is no stressing about the schedule and may ultimately save time.
- Doesn’t slow down weight gain.
Demand Feeding At Night
As a newborn, your baby needs to be woken up and fed at night. At times even when s/he does not demand. But you only need to feed your baby frequently throughout the night during the first few weeks.
The clues you must catch that indicate that your baby can wait longer between night feedings are surpassing birth weight and weight continues to mount at a healthy rate. If these two signs are checked, you can start demand feeding at night.
Of course, there are exceptions. Premature babies and jaundiced babies sleep through hunger. You have to keep an eye on them to feed them throughout the night even when they are not demanding.
Demand Feeding Formula
You may or may not have come across research linking formula-feeding with rapid infant growth and an increased risk of childhood obesity. One study shows that when you demand feed formula in early infancy, babies tend to overeat. Though the reason is not exactly clear, evidence shows that babies tend to extract more milk from the bottle than they can from the breast.
So, perhaps, this fast pace may lead to consuming more during each feed and eventually gets used to having bigger meals. In addition, when fed on demand, be it breastfed or formula-fed, infants adjust their food intake in response to the caloric content of the milk.
So, now you know almost everything there is to know about demand feeding. Are you supposed to feed your baby on demand throughout the entire breastfeeding period? Of course not! There will be a time in your baby’s life when schedule feeding becomes a necessity. Now comes the question: when can you stop demand feeding? As the mom, you can help your baby to stop feeding on demand after the first three months.
When To Stop Feeding On Demand?
It does sound scary to shape your babies’ feeding into a schedule as opposed to feeding when they demand. It is fairly difficult to structure your baby’s feeding schedule without feeling guilty. And let’s not forget about the constant opinions from everyone around you and everyone you know advising you on how and when to feed your baby.
Bearing in mind that babies are constantly growing, their needs also change to support their growth. Also, babies are humans. You cannot expect to wake up one day after the three-month line to force the change. You can only change their schedule and routine gradually with patience.
It also changes from day to day and they experience fluctuations in energy requirements over time. Around 3-4 months, you may find your baby spacing out while feeding. This could be a hint to pick on to start changing the routine. By that time, you will be familiar with your baby’s patterns which helps in following the signals the baby puts out.
How To Go From Demand Feeding To Scheduled Feeding?
When you try to schedule your baby into a feeding pattern, s/he will know what and when to expect. This is one of the benefits of scheduled feeding. As per the experts, you can stop demand feeding once your baby starts having solid foods, which usually happens after six months. This is when a consistent feeding pattern develops, more so than three months.
Most families seat the baby with them when they are having meals at this time around. This helps the baby get used to the idea of an eating routine. Here too the baby will feel secured and expect to have food at these particular times. When babies transition to solids at six months, offer breast or bottle first before giving solids. And once you are ready to begin the full transition to solids, switch the process. Eventually, the second option of breast or milk will no longer be necessary.
A Full Fed and Satisfied Baby
When the baby is fully fed or the baby takes the right amount of milk, it promotes optimal growth. So, allow your baby to feed long enough to ensure a satisfying, full feed. Some babies are slower and no one knows for sure how much the baby takes, so you have to be patient.
You can know whether your baby is fully fed and satisfied by judging your baby’s behavior —calm and content, unlike overfed or underfed babies who are restless. If fully fed, the baby may stay fuller for longer and also sleep longer between feeds. When satisfied, the baby may detach themselves from the breast or fall asleep while feeding and you can feel how relaxed the baby is by lifting the arms.
Another way to know whether the baby is fully fed or not is by the bowel movement and its color. A full bed baby will have frequent (3 to 4 a day) and loose bowel movement that changes color from black to mustard yellow. Also, your baby will begin to gain weight.
If your baby keeps feeding only for about five minutes every hour, it indicates not getting a full feed. Or if your baby sleeps in the middle of a feed in the first few weeks. In both cases, encourage her to feed for longer by talking to her.
Breastfeeding is one of the purest and natural aspects of motherhood. But it is not easy as it sounds. Moms go through different kinds of issues during breastfeeding, particularly at the beginning. Some may not produce adequate milk, some may not be able to feed without pain, and some may find difficulty in feeding altogether. In any scenario, the concern of demand feeding VS scheduled feeding comes to the picture at some point.
No one knows how much babies take in. All babies take in different amounts of breastmilk. Even the same will take different amounts throughout the day. Also, moms have different storage capacities in their breasts. So, ultimately all of these may be unpredictable. According to experts, demand feeding is highly recommended for the first three months. Then, you can start to shape flexible schedule overtime to make it easy for both the baby and the mom.