Watch The Baby, Not The Clock
There are thousands of baby books, websites, online classes, in person education and more on how to feed your baby.
One of the hardest things to decide is what you are going to do. Should I pump breastmilk, feed at the breast, give formula, do both. How much should they have? How long should they be feeding for?
If you have a full term baby with no medical issues the best advice you can follow is: watch the baby, not the clock.
Think about it for a moment, I encourage you to take notes of your eating pattern for the next 48 hours. How many times do you fill up your water bottle? Do you take sips of it whenever you are thirsty? How many cups of coffee or other liquids do you take in?
How many snacks or meals per day do you have? Do you weigh each meal? Do you eat breakfast or skip breakfast? Do you have snacks throughout the day. Do you consume more in one meal than the next?
Some days you may eat a big breakfast, have a cup of juice and coffee. But then you may eat a smaller lunch or snack. Humans tend to be grazers. We eat and drink through out the day when we are hungry or thirsty.
Now think about your baby. They cannot tell you they are hungry, that their throat is dry or they are hot and just want a little drink. They can't tell you they are going through a growth spurt and trying to increase your supply.
Watch the baby, not the clock.
Babies live to eat, sleep, pee and poop. They need a certain amount of feedings per day to make this happen. However, the feedings do NOT have to be on a schedule. If your baby is hungry, they will turn their head and look for the breast. They will bob their head down to find the breast or suck on their hands. Bottle fed babies will still turn their head or suck hard on a pacifier. Crying is a late response.
The biggest thing I have heard over the years with both breast and bottle fed babies is "they aren't due to eat yet".
Real life example: Baby starts crying and rooting or looking for a bottle. Parent then looks at clock. It's only been 1.5 hours since their last feeding. Parent then states "baby isn't due to eat right now". Then gives pacifier or tries to soothe.
Meanwhile, during this appointment the parent has been drinking coffee, taking a sip from water bottle and eaten a handful of snacks.
I just want you to pause and think about that for a moment. Most of us have access to food and snacks whenever we want. We don't look at the clock and say "darn I just had a granola bar at 9:00am, I need to wait to drink my coffee till 12pm. When we are thirsty we go get a drink.
When we are hungry, we go get a snack.
Try applying the same concept to feeding your baby. Now again with in reason. Preterm babies or babies with certain medical issues need to have a certain amount of calories per day. They need to have more of a "schedule" to make sure they are meeting these requirements, because they don't tend to wake as easily for feedings. But a full term baby with no medical issues, who is gaining weight appropriately is able to feed on demand.
Another tip. If it's warm out, babies can't have water. So they might look for the breast sooner because they are thirsty like you! Even if you are formula feeding giving them and additional ounce when they are thirsty is normal.
If they are going through a growth spurt and you are breastfeeding, they need to increase their feeding to increase your supply. Not offering them the breast will cause you to not meet up with their demands. Then you may wonder why your supply is not "keeping up".
Once your baby is back to birth weight and gaining weight. Only wake them if it's been longer than 3 hours during the day. Then let them feed on demand, when they are hungry.
**Note: this applies to full term babies with no medical issues. If you baby seems unsatisfied constantly, will not wake for feedings, too sleepy, not gaining weight or any other concerns. Please contact your pediatrician and feeding specialists.