Demand feeding or set-hourly??...what

User - posted on 08/25/2009 ( 26 moms have responded )

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Hi, i'm UK based and my son is nearly 5 months (10th Sept), he was a big boy at birth, 9lbs 5oz, the midwives recommended demand feeding and I tried this but found that set hourly times were easier for me and him and helped with the pain that breastfeeding generally causes.

He has fed 3-4hourly from birth, except if the weather has been hot and he has asked for an earlier feed, or if he appears to be under the weather. He has been in a set routine from birth and has always been a good sleeper. Sleeps 8pm - 8am now, and I wake him at 10pm for his last feed.



I'm curious to know if midwives in the US recommend demand feeding and how this has worked for everyone? What has been your experience/what is your opinion on demand or set timed feeding...



Jo x

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Rebekah - posted on 08/25/2009

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Demand or schedules? I doubt it matters much. Most mamas are doing what they feel is right for their child. Maybe I'm wrong, but I honestly doubt any of the scheduling moms out there would let their child cry for 30 minutes just because "it wasn't TIME to eat."

I do a little of both. I feed my daughter during the day every 2-3 hours (12 weeks old). When she acts like she's hungry, after it's been 2 hours, I feed her. If she's happy I wait until it's been 3 hours. So I kind of feed on demand... but I don't feed her within an hour of her last feeding, or let her use me as a pacifier.

Tammy - posted on 08/25/2009

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I'm in Canada. Breastfeeding on demand is the norm for us, unless you have an old-fashioned caregiver, or take advice from previous generations. Our moms put us on feeding schedules of course (mine is even in my baby book!) and I don't mean to say they know nothing.

But... they also put us to sleep on our tummies, smoked when they were pregnant with us (at least mine did!), and held us in their laps for the car ride home from the hospital.

So, as long as your son is gaining well, and doesn't fuss too much on a schedule, congrats to you for finding what works for you both!

Ruth - posted on 09/17/2009

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I have had 3 children & breastfed all mine on demand but with a schedule in mind (when you have school runs or nurserys to get to sometimes it just has to be done!)

i think we have a notion of looking after our babies that says demand is best because it is as far away from the set routine of a past generation (and that is a normal generational development - who wants to make the mistakes our parents made?!). But remember there are millions of us babies who were born to schedule feeding mums who thrived - so it is not necessarily a bad thing.

I think we have to all get off our high horses about thinking OUR way is right when actually what we are doing is getting to know our individual babies and working out what works best between us and them. All 3 of my kids were different - the 1st one would eat all day, the 2nd wanted comfort during the night (often more than once) and the 3rd one was quite happy to eat quickly and get on with his day.

Heather - posted on 08/25/2009

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It depends on the midwife/lactation consultant... I feed on a schedule, but will go off schedule when he needs to eat more often... The difference may be that I had to go back to work after 6 weeks and my care provider feeds on a schedule...

I would say, that as long as your child is healthy and growing well, then what ever you are doing it right for him.

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Stephanie - posted on 08/28/2009

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I was told to breast feed on demand..... ANd I Still do and my son is almost 1... He deosnt nurse as much as he did when he was a newborn though.....

Melissa - posted on 08/28/2009

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I started set hourly feeds so every 3hrs and wouldn't let him pass 4 hrs without a feed. Now at 1month old I have gone to demand feeding which still seems to be every 3-4hrs anyway but now he sleeps through 1 feed at night and he is putting on normal amount of weight on each week and is quite the happy healthy baby.

Traci - posted on 08/27/2009

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I try to feed on demand, but generally end up feeding on a schedule. I can safely bet that during the day, she will be up about ever 2.5-3 hrs to eat. I get a little worried when she goes longer then 3. At night, she goes about 4-5 hours, depending. She's also had a couple spurts where she feeds about every hour and a half, and then she will suddenly be heavier and/or longer.

But I could be totally wrong! I don't know. I just do what feels best.

Brenda - posted on 08/26/2009

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These days there is a great push to keep breastfeeding mothers from scheduled feeds. We have some nasty little parenting books *cough cough* Babywise *cough cough* that try to tell mothers to do it, and have been linked to infant dehydration and Failure to Thrive in very young babies. Babies get a lot of important stuff from their milk, including a hormone that has recently been found that reduces pain. So not only is a baby needing more food during growth spurts, they hurt and nurse to relieve that pain. I've had sore nipples several times, and I just grin and bear it because I know he's getting what he needs. For me, the only schedule a baby needs is the one he or she sets. And I take that into childhood as well, but I've always been an on demand feeder, even with my oldest who was formula fed.

Rachel - posted on 08/26/2009

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both my boys are on demand :) Over time, they settle into their own schedule and I know about how often they ask for nursing but I'm always prepared to nurse if they need it more often :) My first announced himself a "big boy" at 27 months and weaned :) My second is coming up on four months and is stretching his schedule a little bit more--makes it easier to run errands!

Mandi - posted on 08/26/2009

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My baby was born premmature and would not eat. He wouldn't even cry saying he was hungry. So for about 2 weeks I had to set an alarm clock to remind me to feed him every two hours. Now, I do on demand sort of. I know he will be hungry every 2 hours, so I just offer the breast around every 2 hours. But if he cries and acts like he wants to eat, I give him more ;)
That is why I love breastfeeding- no mixing or cleaning of bottles. And I can do it anywhere no matter the conditions (ex: no water)

Melissa - posted on 08/26/2009

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the drs in Ga recommend that you nurse every 2-3 hours. But I don't I do the Demand Breastfeeding.

when my son was first born i did the every 2 hours at the hospital. But when I got home we did the Demand. I let him nurse when he was ready. I prefer the Demand than the every so many hours.



i nursed my daughter until she weaned herself at 17 months old. My second child well lets just say he's still nursing on demand at the ripe ole age of 21 months old. and doesn't look like he's gonna give it up anytime soon. lol. my goal is 2 yrs.

Stina - posted on 08/26/2009

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I hear mixed advise on this. With my first two, I tried to set a pretty strict schedule... feeding every 3 hours because especially with my first born, I thought this was what you were supposed to do. There was a lot of crying with him and with my second child. Nursing baby #3 now and I've fed her on demand from the start... waking her during the day if it had been 3-4 hours since her last meal. She's 4 months now and I still offer my breast to her if I notice it's been a while since her last daytime feed, but mostly, I follow her lead and it's been wonderful. Less crying. Less stress... although some days (like yesterday) she doesn't seem to eat as much, or as often... and then the next day (like today) she seems to want to eat every hour or two.



If someone were to ask my advice, I'd say- feed on demand but during the day offer or wake to feed every 3 hours or so. That way there's more chance of baby sleeping through the night.



This time around, I actually didn't get much advice from my doctors as to how frequently to feed my dd... accept to say that 4-5 hours between night feedings was a long time for a newborn. I probably didn't get advice from them because I didn't ask for it and was nursing my third baby. Or maybe it was because during those first weeks, they could tell I was nursing on demand since I couldn't give an exact number of times that I was nursing- or an exact frequency... Those first days were such a blur. They'd ask about her feeding habits and I'd say something like .... "Ummmm. She nurses often and has lot's of wet diapers. Last night We had a five hour strech of sleep somewhere in there. I really haven't been keeping track this time around."

Christina - posted on 08/26/2009

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I have always done on demand feeding. Breastmilk is absorbed quicker into a babies body than formula and I personally think that its just much healthier to feed them when they are hungry. I can't imagine a breastfed baby on a schedule but it sounds like it worked well for you which is great but I just can't see how it would have worked for mine :)

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Wow you're getting a lot of good information. In my case I demand fed but my babies turned it into timed feeding. Sound confusing? When they were born I nursed them as soon as I could and then whenever they "asked" for it. But it didn't seem to take long and they had their own schedule and pretty much stuck to it. So I always knew at a certain time of day I would be nursing and my body knew it too and prepared for it. That doesn't mean that if they were feeling ill or upset that I wouldn't comfort feed them. I listened to their needs and did my best to meet them. Sounds to me like you're doing a wonderful job. I think the key is to find what works for you and your child. If your child is growing and healthy than what you're doing can't be all wrong! :)



Both of my children chose to stop nursing at a year. I had always figured I'd nurse for a year but was willing to go longer if they needed it. But they both just stopped being interested in nursing at a year.

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I, personally, do on demand feeding. sometimes Jay comfort nurses. I don't deprive him of it. Just as I plan on letting him let ME know when he is ready to wean. right now we're at 12m and no signs of stopping anytime soon.

Tamara - posted on 08/25/2009

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Demand feeding is generally advised. Lisa Moreau explained it more eloquently than I could have.

Randi - posted on 08/25/2009

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Newborns NEED to be fed on demand though. If you make them wait an hour, how is that any different than letting your child cry because "it wasn't TIME to eat" ?
Both of my babies sometimes nursed every 15-45 minutes for the first 4 weeks or so. After that, they were more predictable until they hit a growth spurt, and then it was back to that again. I can't imagine ever making an infant wait! I have made my toddler wait if we are driving or in the middle of shopping (my kids are too big to nurse while wearing a sling or wrap now) but I would never do that to a baby... JMO I guess.

User - posted on 08/25/2009

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I listen to my baby's needs and he feeds between 3-4 hourly so in a way that is feeding on demand... when he was newborn he would have closer feeds coz of his small tummy and now he goes until he wants it, or if he hasnt asked for it within 3.5 hrs then I feed him anyway. So i'm kinda working both methods. He very rarely cries for food because I understand him, and know his signals when he needs feeding.

Randi - posted on 08/25/2009

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I'm not American.

Most of the world feeds on demand! They don't set schedules in South America, Asia, Africa etc. they follow their babies cues. They wear their babies and sleep with them close, allowing them to nurse and sleep when THEY need it.

User - posted on 08/25/2009

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I'm totally understanding the points of view above, and thank you all for your honest opinions, just wanted to add that my day is worked around my baby. Everything I do is in his best interest and if I thought he was starving or suffering then I would feed more often. I really do think and know that it has worked out really well, I have taken the advice of my mum and her mum before her to feed this method and it works for both me and my son. Its interesting to know that 99% of US mums do feed on demand though. Would be interested to know if UK mums think the same :-)

Christina - posted on 08/25/2009

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i am still feeding on demand at 17 months for all the reasons previous posters have already stated. i believe that it is my job during this time to meet his needs, not his job to fit around mine. breastfeeding doesn't last forever.

Jenni - posted on 08/25/2009

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I have found it much easier to feed on demand. My first child nursed totally different then my second. If I would have tried to put her on my son's nursing, I guess, schedule that he made she wouldn't have liked it. He nursed slow and would slowly empty one side and then slowly empty the other He would nurse for 30-40 mins at a time. My daughter on the other hand sucks down both sides in 5-10 mins. He like to nurse every 4 hours and she nurses every 2 hours. Now that I've got her on baby food she is going 4 hours or so. It all depends on her mood and where we are and how she's feeling. I let my son wean himself. He got to where the only time he nursed was at night before going to sleep. One night he just stopped. I did miss nursing him but I found out that I was pregnant and I know that I was going to be starting it all over again with another baby. My son nursed for 17 months and we'll see how long my daughter will nurse.

Randi - posted on 08/25/2009

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Feeding on demand is recommended by all major health organizations, including the World Health Organization and Unicef. It's how babies are meant to be fed... They go through growth spurts to build your supply, they suckle for comfort, they nurse through teething and any illness. If you feed on demand, the baby makes their own schedule... They feed, sleep and wake when THEY are ready to. So... that's what we did. We followed their cues rather than expecting them to conform to our schedule. They both go to bed at 8pm, wake up at 8:30 or 9am and then nap from 1-3pm. That was ALL them, I didn't force it or push anything on them. They used to also nap in the morning, but that stopped when they hit a year.

User - posted on 08/25/2009

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Hi Lisa, thanks for your response. My son drains both breasts at each feed and I recognise his hungry cry and don't make him wait to the strict 4 hours if for instince he wants feeding at 3 hours. He is on 5 feeds a day now (same as recommended for bottlefed babies and I top up his 12pm feed with baby banana porridge.) My supply has been constant and when he has had a growth spurt I have fed him earlier as well. When I had mastitis when he was around 3 weeks I pumped for a couple of days and fed it to him and was getting at least 3-4 oz from each breast and that reassured me that my milk production was good. When I have fed him he never mouths at my shoulder/breast etc for more food, and I always wait for him to drop off as the signal that he has finished. He sleeps well and he has put on slightly above average amount of weight. He is a content baby and I am happy with my decision to feed at set times.

I've never heard of child-led weaning, what is that? Am interested to learn more :-) x

Minnie - posted on 08/25/2009

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Scheduled feedings really can't maintain an adequate supply. How can you assume to know what he needs? What about when he goes through a growth spurt? Four hours is great for a breastfed baby- but there may indeed be times when he'll want to nurse more.



And remember, breastfeeding is not just about nutrition and fluids, but is a very important source of immunities, growth factors, and comfort, all of which he may need at some point more frequently than every four hours.



See, look at it from your point of view. If you were very very vulnerable, your life depended on someone else heeding to your needs- would you want your protector and provider to tell you that you weren't hungry yet, or that you didn't need comfort at that moment?



I nurse my daughter whenever she wants it. She's ten months old, and I plan on doing that for the duration of our breastfeeding relationship (we do child-led weaning).

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