A schedule can be a handy tool to help get your baby into a routine and make family life a bit easier with a baby. If you work outside of the home, making a breastfeeding and pumping schedule can be beneficial. It is required, by law in most states, for employers to allow working mothers the opportunity to pump throughout their workday.
Putting your breastfed baby on a schedule can be a bit tricky if you are not introducing a bottle. However, by following your baby’s lead, there are ways to help predict and structure their times of breastfeeding. Having a predictable schedule makes it easier to take your child out of the home or to schedule other tasks around their typical nursing times.
1. Breastfeeding Your Newborn on Demand
Many groups and mothers believe that placing your breastfed baby on a schedule does more harm than good.
Healthy, Breastfed babies all have different schedules, ranging from nursing every hour to as infrequently as every four hours.
Newborns typically want to nurse on demand, and this is what is best for them. The American Academy of Pediatrics advocates for nursing on demand for infants.
To nurse on demand, you offer your breast whenever your baby shows signs of hunger such as:
- Chewing on hands
When you breastfeed on demand, you should expect a newborn to breastfeed 8 to 12 times in a 24 hour period for the first few weeks of life. These feedings can last from 10 to 45 minutes. However, some babies like to comfort nurse and could spend a lot of time at the breast.
2. Creating a Breastfeeding Schedule
Once you get past the difficult newborn stage, it is easier to put your baby on a breastfeeding schedule. However, it is better to refer to it as a routine rather than a strict routine.
Basing your breastfeeding schedule off of your baby’s individual needs is important. Also, it is important to expect each day to change, especially during a growth spurt.
Here is an example of a breastfeeding schedule for a newborn or a young infant. Remember, if baby wakes up early and is hungry, you have to adjust the rest of your schedule. All of the breastfeeding schedules listed are examples tried by the author of CloudMom.com.
If you are opting for a schedule, it is best to try to avoid letting your child sleep for longer than 2 or 2.5 hours at a time. Most importantly, you want your infant to get 25 to 30 ounces of breastmilk in a day, which is needed for proper growth.
Also, remember, this can drastically change during growth spurts, but that time only lasts for a few days.
3. Breastfeeding Schedule for a 4 Month Old
As your baby gets older, it can be even easier to place the baby on a schedule. At this point, they may be nursing every 4 hours, but it could be sooner depending on his needs, but it is going to be an individual thing!
However, depending on how often your baby nurses, here is an idea of what your schedule could look.
4. Schedules for 6 Months
Around the age of 6 months, you are going to introduce solids for the first time. This is such a fun and exciting time for parents, as they watch their little one sample so many goodies.
It is around this time that you may notice your baby’s needs for breastmilk begin to decrease. Even though you are giving them solids, breastmilk needs to be their primary source of nutrition for the first year of their life.
However, here is an average time for feedings for a 6-month-old who eats solids three times per day.
Creating a pumping schedule can be a bit trickier. There are two different situations in which you may need to build a pumping schedule. You may be a working out of the home mother, or you may opt to pump exclusively. Both of these situations present the need of a pumping schedule to keep up your milk supply.
Pumping Schedules for Working Mothers
Exclusively Pumping for a Newborn
Pumping for a newborn can be tricky. You need to establish your milk and breastfed babies tend to nurse between 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. This means you are going to need to pump the same amount of time your child would naturally be nursing so you can make enough milk for your little one.
Let’s assume you want to have eight pumping sessions. Here is a sample of the times you would nurse:
However, if you are struggling to keep up your supply, eight pumping sessions may not be enough to avoid fighting. 8 is the lowest amount of times recommended and best for those who have a substantial supply or oversupply. This is a sample of 10 pumping sessions.
Exclusively Pumping for an Older Baby
As your baby gets older, the time between each feeding would gradually increase. So, an exclusively pumping mother should imitate what the baby would naturally be doing. There is no right or wrong schedule but rather based on the needs of your infant. Also, it is important to remember that you should increase the length of your pumping sessions as you drop the number of sessions.
You may want to pump six times in 24 hours for your 4-month-old. This could be a real number, or it may be too low depending on your baby’s needs. Here is a sample of times:
Unless your baby needs the extra bottles, this is an excellent time to drop the middle of the night pumping sessions in exchange for some great sleep.
For a 6-month-old you could pump five times:
At nine months old, you may opt only to pump four times:
By one-year-old, you could decrease to 2 or 3 times per day:
Whatever schedule you set for your little one, it is important to remember they should be based on your baby’s individual needs.
Some babies have a need to nurse more frequently than other children; they may have a faster metabolism. The last thing you want to do is delay feedings when your baby needs to eat more often.
As your baby grows bigger, you can decrease the number of times you breastfeed or pump. You may notice your child breastfeeds for longer, and you should pump for longer as you reduce the number of sessions.
However, no matter if you pump or breastfeed, by the time your baby is 1-year-old, you should be between 2 and four feedings per day.
One of the issues often mothers have is how to store the breastmilk and give it to their infant. Did you know that you can store breastmilk up to three months by freezing it?
Imagine how easy it is then to follow the above pumping schedule. Pump your milk whenever you can, and then store it in the refrigerator or freezer. Whenever you want to give it to your baby, you just have to warm it. There are several bottle warmers available for breastmilk and it makes it extremely easy to pump milk and store it.
Following a feeding and pumping schedule may seem like a daunting task, but looking at the above schedule, I am sure you realize that it is one of the best ways to keep your baby happy and well fed.
Did you use a schedule? We would love to hear about your experiences! Let us know in the comments, and share with your friends.