With sleepless nights and seemingly endless feeding, it is often difficult for parents to imagine ever settling their baby into a feeding schedule. While establishing a routine is challenging, it is also beneficial for baby as well as for the parents. With a little work and a lot of patience, there are ways to help a baby's feeding schedule develop naturally.
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There has been much debate concerning feeding babies on a set schedule and feeding a baby on demand. The World Health Organization described the timed-interval feeding schedule for babies as ineffective. While feeding on demand may seem like hard work those first few weeks, allow your baby to set her own schedule. Feeding as much or as little as she wants, when she wants, will encourage a more natural feeding pattern. As your baby gets older and her stomach grows, you may find she is feeding more and not as often.
Feeding your baby only when he is hungry will allow a more natural feeding pattern to develop. It is important to learn your baby's hunger signs, which can include sucking motions and hand-to-mouth movements. Feeding him as soon as he shows signs he is hungry will prevent him from becoming upset. Crying is usually seen as a late sign of hunger. By this stage he may be agitated and will be hard to settle. Do not always assume your baby is crying because of hunger. Crying could indicate a dirty diaper or the need for an extra blanket, or he may just need a cuddle. Feeding your baby every time he cries can lead to comfort feeding, and this can make establishing a routine virtually impossible.
Keep track of your baby's feeding habits so you can see if a pattern is forming. After around two weeks of demand feeding, your baby will probably be feeding every three to four hours. Try to stick to this routine, with a degree of flexibility. If your baby is sleeping when her feeding is due, do not be worried about waking her up. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents wake a baby who has not had a feeding for four hours or more.
Your baby will always let you know when he has had enough. Should he stop taking his feed, try burping him and letting him rest for a minute or two before trying again. If he continues to refuse, he has had enough and you should stop feeding. Over-feeding your baby can lead to him suffering from gas and possibly being sick. This could unsettle him for his next feed.
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