Putting your breastfed baby on a rigid schedule may interfere with the
successful intitiation of breastfeeding and put your baby at risk for
slow weight gain and other developmental problems such as
failure-to-thrive. Breastmilk is produced on a supply and demand basis.
The more your baby nurses the more milk your body will make. The less
your baby nurses the less milk your body will make. Insisting on an
artificial schedule may result in not enough stimulation to your
breasts and therefore a scanty milk supply. As a result you may not be
able to fully meet your baby's nutritional requirements thus resulting
in the need to supplement with artificial milk.|
In the first few weeks of nursing when lactation is just becoming
established, frequent, unrestricted feedings are crucial to
establishing a healthy milk supply. Nursing at least every 2-3 hours
during the day and at least once during the night even if your baby
must be awakened for the first few weeks will ensure that your milk
supply is established and remains adequate as your baby grows.
These frequent feedings also ensure that your baby is getting the milk
that he needs. Most young babies need to nurse at least 8-12 times or
every 2-3 hours during a 24 hour period. Studies show that newborns who
are allowed to nurse frequently and on demand regain their birthweight
more quickly and are at less risk for developing low blood sugar and
jaundice. Conversely, babies who are fed strictly by the clock regain
birthweight more slowly and need medical intervention for treatment of
low blood sugar and jaundice largely due to the fact that their
mothers' milk is slow to become more plentiful due to less frequent
Crying is actually a late hunger cue. Babies will all demonstrate early
hunger cues such as turning the head side to side, rooting, bringing
the hands to the mouth, and even sucking the hands before they cry.
As baby grows he will experience periods of heightened growth that generally last for several days. Commonly referred to as growth spurts,
these periods require more feeding flexibility. Baby demands to feed
more often and your body responds to this increased demand by
increasing your milk supply. Adhering to a set schedule during these
times may result in a baby who's increased caloric needs are not met.
Furthermore, your breasts will not receive the added stimulation they
require to boost up your supply to meet your baby's growing needs.
babies also "cluster feed", "stack feed" or "bunch feed". These are all
different terms to describe a feeding pattern in which the baby nurses
almost constantly for several hours. This is a normal pattern for a
breastfed baby. Many will feed in this way prior to bedtime as they
"tank up" for a longer period of sleep. Also milk supply is normally
lower in the late afternoon and evening hours. Many babies compensate
for this slight daily drop in mother's milk supply by feeding more
Finally, babies need to suck and find great consolation at the
breast when they feel lonely, insecure, tired, overstimulated, and
overwhelmed with the changing world. It is this non-nutritive need for
mother's breast that ensures that this emotional as well as physical
need is met. Thus, breastfeeding - unlike bottlefeeding - is more than
feeding. It is communication between mother and baby. It is a form of
nurturing; it is an act of love.
Written by Becky Flora, BSed, IBCLC
Last revision: July 19, 2000
Source: La Leche League's, "The Breastfeeding Answer Book" (1997) by Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC and Julie Stock, BA, IBCLC
More info at other sites:
"Cluster Feeding and Fussy Evenings"
"Sleeping Through the Night"
"Examining the Evidence for Cue Feeding Breastfed Infants"