Baby feeding routines

For the first month, your new baby will probably feed and sleep every two to four hours, day and night. He will want to feed when he is hungry and not by a clock schedule.

What’s a typical 5 month old baby feeding schedule?

Many parents ask when will baby start to fit in with the family’s mealtime schedules? By 5 or 6 months, your baby is likely to be in a comfortable pattern around feeding, socialising and sleeps. They may still wake as early as 5am for a milk feed and then at 6 months move slowly towards having a milk feed before solid food at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some babies may still want one milk feed overnight.

Introducing baby's feeding routines

Feeding times will always be ‘around about’ a certain time. Remember that, for the first month, sleep, feeding and brief social times are generally quite unpredictable. This is because they are what’s called ‘free-running’ around the 24-hour clock, meaning that your baby will feed and sleep at any time during the day and night.

Your baby will want to feed about every two to four hours. That means, if your baby fed at 3 pm and you think your baby had a really big feed, being so full he may not need a feed for another three hours, don’t be surprised if he’s ready to feed anywhere between 5 pm and 7 pm. Especially in the evening, babies tend to feed more frequently and can be a bit unsettled.

For the first four weeks, therefore, your baby’s day will run on a flexible timeline. Your role is to make this routine as familiar, predictable and responsive to your baby’s needs as you can, while learning to recognise your baby’s needs. So you may be thinking, how can a routine be predictable and familiar when it’s that flexible?

Feeding your baby doesn’t have to be a guessing game. Your baby is much more clever than you might think; he can tell you when he’s hungry and ready to have some milk by giving you specific non-verbal cues. These ‘hunger cues’ include signs such as crying, chewing on his hands and, if you touch his cheek with your finger, he’ll turn his head, open his mouth and search for food. If you pick him up, he’ll turn his head and body towards you, and nuzzle into you in search of milk; he’ll probably be curled up with his arms flexed over his chest and his fists clenched.

The next thing you can do is prepare him for his feeds in the same comforting familiar way. You might decide he needs a nappy change or a soft comforting wrap around his body, but leave his hands free so he can touch you and you can hold each other’s hands. Another common and familiar routine is feeding in the same chair and room.

An important thing parents do is explain physical experiences. Some of the first are feeling hungry before and then full after a feed. Just before you start feeding, it’s important to tell him he’s hungry and is going to have some nice warm milk. He doesn’t yet know that the empty, uncomfortable feeling in his tummy is hunger; he’s relying on you to help him understand what’s going on in his body. When he is full and had enough milk, tell him he’s got a full tummy and has had enough to eat.

Daytime and night-time feeds

Daytime is when you enjoy social times with your baby, including during the feed and afterwards. In the first month, your baby is usually most awake at feed times, so it’s the best time to socialise, enjoy and get to know each other. Your new baby may fall asleep straight after a feed, because he gets so cosy, relaxed and full of milk. If you like, you can put him to bed and see if he takes a quick or longer nap; alternatively, sit him up and burp him to see if he’s just in a ‘milk-coma’ and would be happy to rouse and have a chat with you before sleeping again. Think of these as test runs for you and your baby. Sometimes, your baby will just need to feed and go back to sleep but, other times, he’ll enjoy longer awake periods before going back to sleep. This is what’s meant by being responsive to your baby’s needs, while still being flexible to the timeframe of his feeds. His routine is familiar because you feed him the same way each time. When you feed him at night, you don’t do any socialising. This is a quiet time. That way, he begins to distinguish the difference between day and night feeds.

As your baby gets older, the intervals between feeds will get a little longer and become more regular, but his feeds generally remain about three or four hours apart.

Practical breastfeeding information

Feeding routines

When she’s first born, your baby will feed every two to four hours, and feeds should last about 15–20 minutes. However, it’s best not to time feeds but follow your baby’s cues.

When you breastfeed, you can’t see how much milk your baby’s receiving, so you’ll have to follow her lead and watch for her ‘I’m hungry’ and ‘I’m full now’ cues. Of course, there is no set amount of food your baby is going to take at each feed. She’s a bit like you – sometimes, she’ll feel like a huge dinner and, at other times, she’ll want just a little snack, so she’ll take varying amounts each feed time.

As for your milk supply, you’ll discover when it’s most plentiful; this is often in the morning after you’ve had a good rest. Sometimes, at this time of day, your breasts are so full that your baby may only take milk from one side, but she may like both – it’s hard to tell. It depends on how hungry she is.

Often, in the evening, your supply is a bit less, so your baby will need both breasts. Your milk supply can also be lower because you’ve had a busy day. It’s easy to forget to sit down, put your feet up, and have plenty of water, snacks and regular meals.

Whenever you breastfeed, you and your baby need to be in a comfortable place. You need to have a chair with good back support and somewhere to rest your arm while supporting your baby’s head.

Your baby needs to be snuggled close in the crook of your arm, able to attach well to your breast and, importantly, she needs to make good eye contact with you while she feeds.

While your milk supply is becoming attuned to your baby’s needs, you will feel full and uncomfortable prior to feeds. Sometimes, your breasts may leak and even spurt milk. This is known as the letdown reflex. While it may continue for a few weeks, it will settle down as your breasts adjust to your baby’s needs. If you can persevere, your breasts usually become efficient at producing just the right amount of milk and start doing the whole supply and demand thing. The whole process of establishing your milk supply usually takes around six to eight weeks, sometimes a little longer. It’s a very individual experience.

If you’re looking for someone who can assist, good sources of help could include your own mum, or if you have sisters or friends who breastfed successfully, they are good sources of help. They can often have had similar experiences and may be the best women to give you some helpful tips. Once again, this is a gentle reminder to allow yourself time to adjust to these physical and emotional changes.

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