I really enjoy the special relationship between my son and I while breastfeeding. I do, however, find it very challenging to use my body as a drinking fountain, a sleep prop, and a comfort item in every situation. Do I breastfeed for comfort sometimes? Of course. Do I breastfeed as a sleep prop sometimes? Of course. But I find it challenging for it to be an everyday thing. I need some sort of structure to the day to feel sane.
Breastfeeding provides an endless array of benefits to babies and even toddlers, but mothers may feel a desire to breastfeed on an approximate schedule to help bring structure and routine to their days. There is a significant amount information out there discouraging mothers from breastfeeding in combination with a routine or schedule.
If you are a mom with hopes of breastfeeding on a schedule or routine, there are several ways to prevent supply issues and ensure a long successful breastfeeding relationship with your child.
For any future or current breastfeeding moms out there wondering how to adequately maintain breast milk supply, while still maintaining some sort of structure throughout the day, this post is for you. Be encouraged, it is possible.
1. When in doubt always feed on demand.
The only true way to make more milk is to allow the baby to demand more breast milk. With a newborn we should expect to feed every 2-3 hours around the clock for the first 2-3 weeks in order to establish an adequate milk supply. After this time period, it is usually okay to start implementing a schedule. Personally, I favor using the eat, wake, sleep cycle, commonly found in Babywise and Baby Whisperer books, because I find it the most helpful. However, it certainly isn’t required to breastfeed on a schedule or routine.
Here is an example of what a baby’s approximate schedule may look like during the first few months:
- 0700 wake, nurse, play
- 0745 nap
- 0930 wake, nurse, play
- 1015 nap
- 1200 wake, nurse, play
- 1245 nap
- 1430 wake, nurse, play
- 1515 nap
- 1700 wake, nurse, play
- 1745 nap
- 1830 wake, nurse, play
- 1915 bedtime routine, nurse, down for the night
- 2000 dreamfeed*
- 2000-0700 night feeds as the baby demands
With the schedule in place, the baby will have 8 scheduled feedings per day plus whatever the baby demands at night, easily falling into the recommended 8-12 feeding per day.
*What’s a Dreamfeed? Before going to bed, we can pick the baby up without really waking up him up, and give the baby an additional feeding. The dream feed helps prevent the baby from waking up shortly after we moms go to sleep.
Always feed the baby, if the baby seems hungry. Once on a schedule, anytime the baby appears hungry always feed the baby. We can simply modify the schedule for the rest of the day or just add an additional feeding and feed the baby again at the next scheduled feeding. Hunger always trumps the schedule. If you get off schedule, it’s okay.
During growth spurts, add in a few feedings to your routine. We can anticipate growth spurts at approximately 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months and 9 months. During these times, it is very common to see early nap waking and increased night waking due to hunger. Allowing the baby to eat more frequently during growth spurts will help increase your milk supply and sustain your baby.
2. Treat early waking from naps and night waking as a hunger issue first.
We should always assume that the baby awoke early because he is hungry. So go ahead and feed the baby. If the baby doesn’t take a full feeding, we can assume the baby wasn’t truly hungry and troubleshoot from there. Adding in an additional feeding to your day won’t make or break the overall schedule. Simply feed the baby, then get back on track.
3. If your supply becomes questionable, stop the routine and feed on-demand.
When supply is low, the only way to get it back is through frequent demand. Encourage the baby to feed at the breast as much as possible. If you suspect a decrease in supply, feeding every two hours during the day may be necessary. Pumping for 5-10 minutes after your baby finishes nursing is another way to help stimulate supply.
If you believe your supply is truly low or compromised in any way, it’s very important to talk to your doctor, midwife or lactation consultant. In addition to helping you troubleshoot a legitimate supply issue, they may also recommend a prescription or over the counter herbal remedy to help boost supply.
4. Avoid formula supplements.
Anytime we offer the baby an alternative source of food, it will decrease the amount of milk demanded at the breast. When we desire to continue a breastfeeding relationship, it’s important to minimize supplements as much as possible.
5. Pump before you go to sleep, if necessary.
Going long periods, like 12 hours overnight, is too long between breast stimulation for some moms. If you are worried about compromising your milk supply after dropping all night feedings, go ahead and pump before you go to bed. If nothing else, it will give you peace of mind. I pumped before bed for quite some time. I’m not sure that it was even necessary, but to me pumping was easier than dealing with a milk supply issue.
6. Don’t obsess about the clock.
Think of a schedule as a rough outline for how the day should go to help bring organizational structure to our lives. However, we have to be flexible. Again we are not robots. We should expect to make schedule adjustments on a daily basis if necessary.
Using your intuition and following the baby’s cues can help ensure a successful long-term breastfeeding relationship. Whenever the baby is hungry, always feed the baby. The schedule and routine will still be there later today or even tomorrow. It’s easy to get back on track. When we experience legitimate supply issues, we should always seek treatment and advice from a trained medical professional to help us.
Don’t miss these popular posts…
- My Top 10 Newborn Sleep Tips
- Weaning from Breastfeeding: the When, the How, and the Downright Emotional Truth
What do you think about breastfeeding on a schedule or routine? Any success? Anyone without success?
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