Infant Feeding Schedule

Guide to Understanding an Infant Feeding Schedule 

There is nothing like the wonderful joy of a newborn that can turn your routine life into a topsy turvy tailspin as you begin to adjust to new routines with your infant, feeding schedule, for example.  Pre baby, your days may have stretched out long and luxuriously before you; now, they are broken up into one or two hour blocks according to your baby’s needs.  Do not despair; you and baby will soon adjust to having a very flexible schedule, one that changes continuously as your baby grows.

While nothing should override your own pediatrician’s recommendations for your baby’s feedings, there are some guidelines that can often help new parents to understand the how’s and why’s of feeding schedules at each stage of development. 

First Four Weeks

Expect that your baby may be very sleepy during these first few weeks; he or she has gone through quite an ordeal, after all.  Hunger will prompt wakefulness, however.  This is the time to begin good eating habits by discouraging small feedings or “snacks”.  Making sure that a full feeding is taken will help the baby to sleep better as well.  Normal feeding occurrences range between every 2 ½ and 3 hours, with 8 to 10 feedings averaging over a 24 hour period.  It is helpful to try and coordinate morning feedings at around the same time each morning to develop a schedule that both you and your baby are comfortable with maintaining.  The only nourishment needed at this stage is either breast milk or formula. 

Weeks Five to Eight

Moms and dads may notice that their baby is beginning to stretch out the time between feedings slightly.  During the daytime, the baby will likely enjoy longer periods of wakefulness between mealtimes.  At night, it is important that parents put baby back to bed immediately following feedings to reinforce that nighttime hours are for sleeping rather than for playing.  Babies are growing quickly, and their infant feeding schedule that was so regimented may now begin to take different forms.  Cluster feeding is a frequent occurrence during this time, meaning that the baby wants to eat at closer intervals.  Breast milk or formula is still the only food that should be offered to babies at this age.

Weeks Nine to Twenty

Infants are becoming more engaging and active during this time, and they will want to be awake for longer times throughout the day which should be helping them to sleep for longer stretches at night.  Most babies will sleep throughout the night now.  Daytime feedings have likely decreased to only 5 to 7 per day as the baby’s fourteenth week of life approaches.  Some select solid foods can begin to be introduced to the baby around week sixteen along with breast milk or formula.  It should now be evident that establishing a regular pattern of feeding based on the baby’s needs has served to develop good sleeping habits and feeding habits. 

Weeks Twenty one and beyond

Around weeks twenty one and twenty five, your infant feeding schedule should have changed to the point where baby will be eating at the same, or nearly same, schedule as the rest of the family.  Sleeping throughout the night should now be a regular occurrence.  More solid foods can be introduced, doing so slowly with only one new food introduced at a time.  Your baby will likely be enjoying the new offerings, and mealtimes are becoming much more enjoyable as a family.

While the early days of infancy can be an upheaval in the lives of new parents especially as they become accustomed to the irregular schedules of babies, it is comforting to look ahead and see the bumps in the road evening out to a smooth path.  Parents and baby soon learn to develop a successful schedule that works for all.