How can I get my baby into a feeding routine?

Keep in mind that it’s perfectly normal for your newborn to have totally unpredictable eating and sleeping habits. He may also have his days and nights mixed up.

Rather than fight his unpredictable routine, try to understand the cues that tell you when he’s hungry and when he’s full. Once you’ve picked up on your baby’s patterns, there are some things you can do to gently coax him into a routine:

Establish other routines

Take your baby for a walk every day at about the same time. Try to make sure your baby has his daily bath at the same time too. By establishing patterns of activity your baby will get used to the idea of a daily routine. In fact, he’ll probably take comfort in it. With a little luck, other routines will fall into place more easily, too.

Help your baby to sleep soundly

Sometimes your baby will fall asleep at the end of a feed, as if to signal that he’s finished. At other times he may doze off in the middle of a feed, only to wake up half an hour later because he’s still hungry.

When you breastfeed your baby or give him a bottle, try to make sure he gets his fill before he falls asleep. Play lively music, talk or sing to him, or change his nappy if you think he’s dozing in the middle of a meal.

If you’re breastfeeding, offer both breasts at each feed. Make sure your baby takes the rich hindmilk from at least one breast, even if he doesn’t need to feed deeply from both breasts to be satisfied. This high-fat hindmilk will help him to sleep for longer between feeds.

If your baby has a weaker suck, you can help him get the hindmilk by massaging your breast during the last few minutes of breastfeeding. If your baby has a powerful suck and a good latch, then he’ll most likely have no difficulty obtaining the hindmilk himself.

Bear in mind that all babies are different. Some can take plenty of milk in four or five minutes, while others, especially newborns, may need between 15 minutes and 20 minutes. Most babies become more efficient at breastfeeding as they get older and stronger.

Pay attention to your baby’s cues

If you’re breastfeeding your baby, feed him whenever you notice hunger signals for the first few weeks, even when they seem random. This may mean you’re feeding up to a dozen times a day.

By about four weeks, your breastfed baby will probably have become a more efficient feeder. He’s then likely to drop to about eight feeds in 24 hours. This is a good time to look for a pattern in his feeding.

If you are formula feeding your baby, it may be easier to find a pattern, even in the first few weeks. You will probably find that your baby needs feeding, on average, every three to four hours.

If you watch closely, you may be able to find other patterns in your baby’s behaviour. Note when your baby’s alert, how long he sleeps, and when he does a poo.

Your baby might not be able to settle down until he’s had a poo, for example. Or he may be ready to eat only after his first poo of the day.

Once you begin to pick up on your baby’s own, natural rhythms, you can both settle into a feeding routine.

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