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July 12, 2018

How to Master Your Breastfeeding Schedule

From the moment she is born, your baby needs you.

From the moment she is born, your baby learns to rely upon you.

From the moment she is born, your baby has no idea what time it is.

If you are the type of woman that likes a strict schedule, ruffles at the idea of flexibility or hasn’t had to exercise her spur-of-the-moment thinking in months...get ready for your new normal. 

Paying attention to your baby and not the clock will help your baby gain weight and will help your breasts produce the milk your growing baby wants and needs. Remember, unlike artificial formula which has exactly 24 calories per ounce, your milk is alive, it changes from minute to minute, adjusting to higher temperatures with more water for hydration...adding melatonin at night as a sleep aid...providing growth hormones throughout your baby’s breastfeeding life...too many other plusses to mention here because I want to stress that your breastmilk has a varying calorie count.  Sometimes it has more fat; sometimes more water and these variations in the calories she takes in determine how long your baby will be content before she again shows signs of hunger. 

I frequently have conversations with new breastfeeding mothers that begin with the rundown of the times of their baby’s feedings. I listen carefully; I appreciate the mother’s need to try to pull it all together, to try to make order of this new normal, which often feels like disorder - especially to the executive woman. 

I reply, “The times don’t matter, what matters is; feed your baby when your baby tells you that she is hungry.  Don’t look at the clock or your phone or your list of earlier feeding times. When she starts to wave her arms about and call out to you, look at your baby, learn your baby’s language.”

“But I just fed her 2 hours ago.”  So? She’s hungry now. Perhaps she had a smaller volume feeding the last time because her belly was gassy or her intestines were full of poop, making her less inclined to take the time at breast.  Since she last ate, even if it was “just” 2 hours ago, she might have burped, farted or had a giant poop...and now she’s ready to eat more. Your baby has no idea what time it is.

When your baby calls out to you, she needs your presence to reassure her that her needs will be met. You will create a secure, contented baby that will cry less, smile more, have more diaper changes (and therefore fewer rashes) and will gain weight. You will not “spoil” your baby by picking her up when she cries. That’s old news; current research bears this out. 

Instead of a schedule, look for patterns.  You can observe that your baby is more active between 10 A.M. and 1 P.M., wanting to look about and not eat or perhaps when you have her wrapped to your chest for 2 hours she awakens super hungry.  These are your new normal occurrences.  These patterns emerge from your observations telling you when to feed your baby.  Learn these patterns, forget any strict schedules...watch and listen to your baby - not your clock.

Paula Zindler
RN IBCLC



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