Demand Feeding vs Scheduled Feeding

Demand vs. Scheduled Feeding

One of the most common questions asked by new mothers is “how often should I be feeding my baby” and “what is better, trying to structure a feeding schedule or allowing baby to decide?”

There may also be a lot of conflicting advice in the first few weeks. “feed every 2-3 hours, 8-12 times in a 24 hour window” etc.

But what is the reality of the situation? What if baby doesn’t wake for 5 hours and then wants to feed every hour after that?

The shortest and most simple answer is:

Watch your baby, not the clock.

Demand feeding is the gold standard for breastfeeding in those early weeks. Demand feeding is simply feeding your baby anytime he/she shows signs of hunger.

Early signs of hunger include:

* Licking or smacking of the lips
*Sticking out their tongue
*Sucking on fingers

*Rooting around searching for food

When you demand feed you don’t have to worry about timing the feed, simply following your babies cues and allowing them to latch and detach when they are ready. Signs they have had enough may include detaching themselves and not attempting to return to the breast, sleeping comfortably, and feeling/appearing very relaxed following the breastfeed.

What are the benefits to demand feeding?

Demand feeding is extremely beneficial particularly in the first few days of life as it encourages the development of an adequate milk supply. When ‘night two’ rolls around and baby is unsettled and requiring extra breastfeeds and attention, demand feeding is one of the crucial components to stimulating a good milk supply.

Without knowing the exact fluid volume that a baby takes at each breastfeed, demand feeding allows the baby to decide when they have had enough or require more. This of course occurs once an adequate milk supply has been established.

In the presence of additional circumstances such as tongue ties, jaundice, prematurity, breast and nipple size issues – demand feeding may have to be delayed until resolution of these issues. For babies in these circumstances, demand feeding might not be feasible initially as baby can tire easily and not wake to feed on their own often enough to encourage weight gain and stimulate milk supply. These babies will need to be woken initially 3-4 hourly until adequate weight gain achieved.

Dykes, F., 2005. ‘Supply’ and ‘demand’: breastfeeding as labour. Social Science & Medicine, 60(10),
Iacovou, M. and Sevilla, A., 2012. Infant feeding: the effects of scheduled vs. on-demand feeding on
mothers’ wellbeing and children’s cognitive development. European Journal of Public Health,
23(1), pp.13-19.
Trainham, G. and Montgomery, J., 2005. Self-Demand Feeding for Babies. The American Journal of
Nursing, 46(11), p.767.

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