If you’ve recently given birth you may feel as if your normal routine has been thrown out the window and that’s because now you’re on baby time. Determining a breastfeeding schedule may help you regain some balance and structure with time to rest.
This may seem overwhelming at first but just take a deep breath. As your baby grows you’ll find that a schedule makes it easier to keep an eye on their health and patterns. It also allows you more time to rest and helps to regulate your milk supply. So, how do you determine a schedule?
The first step towards determining your breastfeeding schedule for a newborn is to not start it too early. Many babies cluster feed at first, meaning they have many frequent small meals a day. Typically newborns eat 8 to 12 times a day during their first month.
Look for your baby's clues to determine when and how long your baby needs to feed. Each mom produces milk at a different rate, so it’s best to watch your baby to see how long it takes them to get full.
When babies want to feed they open their mouths and move their tongues. When they get full they relax. Depending on your flow and your baby’s sucking skills or breast pump strength it could take between 5 to 30 minutes to fully empty each breast.
You can build a pumping schedule that caters to both your baby's and your own needs based on their cues and feeding durations. Feedings will be about every 2 to 3 hours based on your baby’s needs.
You don’t have to wait for them to cry or alert you when they’re hungry, go ahead and feed them according to their schedule. Also, you may have to wake them up so they’ll stick to it.
Space feedings to roughly 3 hours apart after about a month. Pay attention to your baby’s needs when you begin to space out feedings. Sometimes they may want a little extra milk due to experiencing a growth spurt or simply because they want more milk that particular day.
Do Scheduled Feedings Provide Enough Milk?
Check your baby's diapers to see if your baby is getting enough milk. After the first week expect to find 6 urinations and 4 mustard-colored stools. This will stay consistent for about a month, then the number of stools during the day will decrease.
If your baby isn’t getting enough milk then they won’t be gaining weight or won’t be back to their delivery weight after 14 days. Their stools may be less frequent, hard, dry, and not mustard colored and your baby may not be settled after nursing.
Your breasts may also signal that your baby isn’t getting enough milk if you seem engorged after nursing or if your milk hasn’t come in yet.
How To Stick To Your Breast Pumping Schedule
As you get busier and have to return to work your nursing schedule will turn into a breast pumping schedule if you wish to continue feeding your baby breastmilk. Staying on track may seem challenging since you’ll be breast pumping and feeding 10 to 12 times a day.
Try to match your scheduled feeding times around your break times at work in order to breast pump according to the routine your body is used to. Many moms get up around 5:30 or 6 AM to nurse before work.
They then pump an hour later and again during their morning break around 10 AM or so. Pack your lunch so you can pump again on your lunch break, then take your final pumping session at work during your afternoon break. Then pump or nurse when you get home, at your baby’s bedtime and once during the night, depending on your baby’s schedule.
Avoid planning social events around your schedule or delay errands if you don’t feel comfortable pumping or breastfeeding in public. Also, try to plan flights and road trips around your schedule to avoid missing a session and becoming engorged.
Happy Scheduling, Mama!
Every mom and baby is different with their own opinions of what worked for them from on-demand feeding to scheduled breast pumping or using formula. However, it’s important to do what’s best for you and your baby, so establish a schedule and stick to it if that’s what keeps you both happy and healthy.