demand feeding vs routine/schedule feeding

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demand feeding vs routine/schedule feeding

Postby sara » Fri 29 Apr, 2011 9:51 am


As a new mum (my son is 5weeks) I've been bombarded with many different rules for feeding and sleeping and it all seems to conflict each other, so in my confused state, I'd love Nala's sound advise.

I breast feed and was wondering whether I should be damand feeding or routine/schedule feeding.
Having a routine sounds great, it means I can work some like of life around my baby but it doesn't seem to be working for my baby. He takes a while to get to sleep (sometimes crying for an hour and a half before going to sleep) so sometimes he'll just have gone to sleep and I'm waking him in half an hour to feed 'on schedule' again. This went on for a bit and he got so so overtired!
But if I demand feed, he'd be quite happy to breast feed all day and at the beginning was snacking all day and night (hence why I tried a routine).

At the moment I guess I'm doing a bit of both during the day: I usually feeding him every 2 hours if he's awake between feeds or 3-3.5 hours if he sleeps.
He has no real pattern with times, its kind of all over the place depending on when/if he sleeps!
He is gaining stacks of weight and having plenty of wet/pooy nappies so I don't feel worried that he's not getting enough but I want to do the right thing by him and I would love to have some kind of life (not stuck at home in my pjs all day).

If you need any more info please ask.
Sara xx
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Re: demand feeding vs routine/schedule feeding

Postby NgalaOnline » Sat 30 Apr, 2011 1:41 pm

Hi Sara

Thank you for your post. The experience you are having is very common for parents of newborns. It is very common to feel overwhelmed by a large volume of well meaning advice from friends, family, professionals and printed materials. These opinions can often be contradictory which can be very confusing for parents. It is helpful to remember that you are the expert on your baby, all babies are different and you know more about this individual baby than anyone else. Many of the opinions given by family and friends may be based on their own experiences or on older methodologies that have now been surpassed by more recent research. Many of the parenting books on the market are written by people without qualifications in child health or development. Books can often also be forcefully written and can sometimes create anxiety in parents. There is no one way that works for all babies and parents, so if you read or receive advice that does not fit with your lifestyle or your instincts, or if you feel it erodes your confidence in your own parenting, it is helpful to disregard these opinions and do what you feel is right for your baby and family. You may find the following link helpful for dealing with unwanted advice:

Current research supports breastfeeding on demand as the optimal way to feed babies. Babies are good at regulating their own appetites and feeding on demand is often the best way to establish a plentiful breastmilk supply. It is very normal for breastfed babies to feed around 8 times in 24 hours in the first 8 weeks or so, and this is very helpful for building a plentiful supply. To reduce snack feeding you may like to try changing your baby’s nappy if he falls asleep at the breast, and then putting him back to the breast for some more. If after awhile you notice his suck has changed from an active suck and swallow to a fluttery type suck, this can indicate he is now sucking for comfort and you may like to take him off if you have things to do. Placing babies in a clock-based routine often can create extra anxiety for parents. As you have found, adhering to a timed regime can also result in an overtired and difficult to settle baby, if adhering to the routine means that parents need to wake babies or are being distracted from following their baby’s early tired signs. Following your baby’s cues and settling when you see early tired signs is often the best way to avoid a baby getting overtired and harder to settle.

It is very normal for baby’s this age to be very disregulated and unpredictable, not often fitting into any predictable patterns at this age. Babies under 12 weeks have very large areas of their brain that are still very underdeveloped and this means that at this early stage they do not have the abilities to recognise when they are tired, and know how to soothe themselves or go to sleep. They do not have a well developed circadian rhythm at this age. It is still very normal for your baby to be dependent on you at this age for soothing and comforting him. As he approaches twelve weeks you will probably find that he becomes a lot more predictable in his patterns and more able to calm himself down. Before 3-4 months babies to not have the brain development to establish strong sleep associations, meaning that methods of settling such as feeding, rocking or cuddling are not creating habits at this early stage. It is very normal for your baby to be seeking comforting from you including sucking and feeding, which is one of the most comforting activities for newborns. It is very common to feel that there is no life outside of settling and feeding baby in these early weeks, this feeling often lessens as the baby gets older and becomes more predictable, easier to settle and feeds more quickly. As your baby approaches three months, that is a good time to begin working gently towards helping your baby to develop skills in settling himself in his bed, in a step by step manner that is supportive of the baby.

It is very common for newborns, especially babies around 5 to 8 weeks to have periods of several hours each day, often in the late part of the day, where they will cry and be difficult to soothe. This is a very normal phase of development. Although normal it is also very draining so taking care of yourself (such as having easy snack and dinner foods in the house so you are not hungry whilst dealing with a crying baby around dinner time) is important. Seeking support and resting when you can is also helpful as you get through these very hard weeks.

You may find the following link helpful:

You may also like to read some of the links from the following page: ... o-12-weeks

The tip sheets “How Does My Newborn Sleep,” “Feelings and Expectations about Being a Parent” and “Sleep and Settling 0-5 years” may also be helpful for you: ... nce-Guides

Settling techniques such as cuddling, a warm bath, using movement such as rocking in a pram or swing, or white noise such as radio static or a vacuum cleaner that is louder than the baby’s cry can often be helpful for unsettled babies.

It sounds as though your baby’s current behaviours are very normal newborn behaviours that he will likely outgrow in the coming weeks to months. I hope that you have found this helpful.
This information is general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for the personalized assistance that can be received from the Ngala Helpline by telephone.

For families residing in Western Australia you can also contact the
Ngala Helpline
Telephone 9368 9368 or 1800 111 546 for country access
Available 7 days a week, 8am to 8pm
or request a callback online

For helplines in other Australian states please follow this link
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Re: demand feeding vs routine/schedule feeding

Postby sara » Tue 03 May, 2011 3:33 pm

Thank you for the replies to my posts, I really appreciate it and they really helped. Just to know that things are 'normal' as you muddle your way into parenthood is such a relief. You make me feel much more confident, thank you!
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