Baby feeding: On demand or on schedule?

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One of the age-old questions that probably does go back to the dawn of time is whether we should be feeding babies on demand or on a schedule.

Hi, I’m Dr. Joe.

This could be a very brief video because the simple answer is whatever suits you and your baby.

There are about 7 billion people now on planet Earth and it’s pretty unlikely that there is “one size fits all” for absolutely everything that we do.

In terms of feeding babies there is a bit of a match between what works for the mother and what works for the baby. Some babies will fit into a very nice neat schedule and you almost can set the clock by them: they will want to feed at a particular time, and there’s a nice schedule that you can fit around and it works well for everybody. Some babies, they don’t want that: they don’t necessarily want to eat at 2 o’clock, they might want to eat at 3 o’clock – they won’t know that it’s 2 or 3 o’clock but their tummy clock is telling them “I’m hungry now” and when they are hungry they’ll let you know.

There is no right or wrong about this. Often people get quite tied up in knots and very stressed about whether they’re doing right or wrong. There is no right or wrong in an absolute sense. There is what is right for you and your baby. And one of the ways you can tell that is if you’re happy and baby’s happy, and baby’s gaining weight, then you are pretty much on the right track.

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Now, as babies get a little bit older as the months go by we also need to take into account some practical considerations. When you think about it, as adults we tend to eat our meals at roughly the same time each day and not because we have to but because it starts to fit into our schedule. If we tend to eat lunch at 1 o’clock we’ll start to get a bit hungry at 12:30. If we suddenly change and decide we’re going to eat lunch at 12 o’clock, maybe the first couple of weeks we might not feel that hungry at lunch time but very soon we’ll be getting the same tummy rumbles at 11:30 that we used to get at 12:30. We are creatures of habit and so it is too with babies. You get them into a little bit of a habit then their tummy clocks will start to align with your clock and your schedule.

As a mother or a father, we do have other things to do. We want to be focusing attention on our baby and being for them, but we do have other things to do in life and it’s certainly not, and I underline NOT, unreasonable to have a bit of a melding between baby’s demands and your schedule. And this particularly applies to nighttime feedings when it’s certainly not unreasonable to try waking the baby up at 11 o’clock, giving them a feed, and then hopefully they’ll get through until 6 or 7 rather than perhaps waiting until 3 in the morning when they wake up and they want to eat. If the latter suits you then go for it. But if it doesn’t then it doesn’t matter.

A lot of people get very passionate about these sorts of subjects and it really is important that whatever works for you and your baby, and if you’re all happy, and baby’s growing, then that is working for you. So if there is any take home message out of this video: there is no absolute right or wrong. It is a bit of a mix between baby schedule and your schedule, and what works for everybody; and if everybody’s happy then you’re doing the right thing.

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Date Created: September 8, 2014 Date Modified: November 14, 2018