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Baby Growth Spurts and Feeding Schedule
Typical Infant Feeding Schedule
When a baby is born, it is vital that a breastfeeding mother feed the baby at regular intervals in order to both provide necessary nutrition for the baby and to ensure adequate milk production. At first, this means feeding the baby every two and a half to three hours. Most babies will nurse this frequently around the clock.
With the OK from a pediatrician, babies who are growing appropriately and obviously healthy enough should be allowed to sleep at night if they happen to sleep through a feeding time. While frequent and regular feedings are important for developing adequate milk supply, the body is capable of adjusting to the varying needs of the baby and most of the time be capable of skipping feeding times during the night.
In order to make up for any missed feedings during the night, it may be necessary to wake the baby from naps during the day in order to breastfeed. Many women find that by waking their baby to nurse every 2.5-3 hours during the day, the baby has its nutritional needs met and is able to sleep more during the night. Even so, some babies will simply need to wake and eat once or twice overnight until they are older and able to take in more at a feeding.
The Breastfeeding Mother
A breastfeeding mother is providing her baby the best nutrients possible. Along with the basic nutrition, breastfed babies are receiving antibodies from their mother which will help them fight off illness. Many mothers find that their exclusively breastfed baby does not become sick with seasonal illnesses for many months, or until solid foods have been introduced.
The amazing thing about the breastfeeding mother, is that their body is able to adjust milk supply as needed to the demands of their baby. When a baby begins sleeping through the night, the mom will often find herself painfully engorged for a few nights and slowly her body adjusts to this change and produces less and less milk overnight. Likewise, when the baby goes through a growth spurt and needs more milk, the mom's body adjusts and produces more milk.
When a baby cluster feeds, he becomes hungry much sooner than the mom expects and will often cluster several feedings close together. Many babies will cluster feed in the evening as a way to then sleep longer at night without waking to nurse.
When a baby is going through a growth spurt, he will need to eat more. A breastfed baby will cluster feed at this time in order to stimulate the mother's breasts to make more milk. This frequent nursing will trigger the lactation hormones to produce more milk, resulting in increased milk supply and allow the baby to receive more milk at a feeding.
Knowing that a baby is going through a growth spurt usually only happen after the mother notices more frequent breastfeeding during the day and often extra feedings at night as well. A baby will often wake up early from naps and want to eat during a growth spurt as well.
Ensure Adequate Milk Supply
A breastfeeding mom needs to ensure that her milk supply is adequate to meet the nutritional needs of the growing baby. A nursing mom needs to consume enough calories each day to produce the nutrient rich milk that helps a baby grow. This means eating an average of 500 healthy calories each day.
Additionally, a new mom who is breastfeeding needs to drink plenty of water. Producing milk for a hungry infant will make a nursing mom very thirsty. Drinking plenty of water means adequate milk supply. Breastfeeding moms should drink enough water each day to not be thirsty. Often this means having a glass of water hand during feeding times.
If a nursing mom's milk supply is lacking, there are things she can do to increase that supply. First, she should ensure that her baby is eating frequently throughout the day. Often the simple act of breastfeeding more frequently (waking the baby to eat as well) will help the body produce more milk.
Sometimes it is necessary to pump after each feeding to further stimulate the body to produce more milk. Some moms claim that eating a bowl of oatmeal each day helps to increase their milk supply. Additionally, an supplement called Fenugreek can be taken to increase mom's milk supply.
Common Growth Spurt Ages
Growth Spurts are a common and regular thing that all babies go through. Thankfully there are common times that babies go through growth spurts so that mom can be watchful for these times.
Growth spurts generally occur around the following ages but growth spurts at additional ages is considered perfectly normal.
- 7-10 days old
- 3 weeks
- 6 weeks
- 3 months
- 6 months
- 9 months
The first growth spurt at 7-10 days coincides with the mom's milk coming in. Until the milk comes in, the baby is receiving colostrum, a very important and antibody rich liquid. After birth the baby will lose up to 10% of their body weight, so when the nursing mom's milk comes in, the baby eagerly drinks in order to make up for lost weight.
Another option for a nursing sling, adjustable for mom and baby comfort.
As the baby grows, the time between feedings will start to stretch out. It is important for the mom to nurse frequently (every 2.5-3 hours) for the first month in order to establish a strong milk supply. Then it is possible for the baby to stretch his feedings out some without risking a loss of milk supply.
Generally, a mom can know that it is time to stretch out the baby's feeding when she has to wake the baby up from a nap for the same feeding each day. The mother can test the theory that the baby is ready to stretch the time between feedings by pushing the next feeding time out by 15 minutes. If the baby still needs to be wakened from a nap each time, the mom can stretch the time 15 minutes longer.
Generally a baby between 4 and 6 months old a baby will need to nurse between 4-6 times a day. Mothers who have focused on waking their baby during the day to eat and allowing their baby to sleep at night often find that their baby sleeps an average of 10 hours at a stretch.
The breastfed baby is very good at telling mom that he needs more food or less food based on nursing habits during the day. Keeping an eye on the clock can help mom know when the baby needs to eat again and will help the mom know when crying is not related to hunger, but another need instead.
If your nipples become sore or cracked from improper nursing latch or frequent nursing, this can help sooth and heal.
Related Information on Breastfeeding
- kellymom :: Breastfeeding and Parenting
kellymom.com - Breastfeeding and Parenting. Evidence-based information on breastfeeding and parenting issues.
- Low Milk Supply in a Nursing Mother: How to Overcome One Breastfeeding Issue
How to encourage your body to make more milk through nursing, pumping, supplements and diet.
- When to Wake a Sleeping Baby: Waking Up Baby to Eat
When is it necessary to wake a sleeping baby to eat and when is it OK to allow baby to sleep? Use common sense and follow your pediatrician's advice to help you decide.