The Case for Ditching a Baby Feeding Schedule

Somewhere along the course of history, our society grabbed onto a curious habit of putting our babies on feeding schedules. It’s almost like common knowledge that everyone just get on an baby feeding schedule, feeding only every 3 hours around the clock, but why? I’ve observed moms who noticed their child was getting hungry, but it was “too soon” to feed them so they tried to distract them or hand them off to someone else, hoping baby would forget about it until it’s time. New moms feel the need to conform to this idea, but why? As an adult, I eat when I’m hungry. I don’t make myself wait a certain amount of time before I eat. If I did, I have a feeling I would be very grumpy about it! Why do we do this to babies? Who came up with this?

The baby feeding schedule began to appear in the late 1800’s when the United States was rapidly growing and industrializing. Infant care manuals were introduced and had very detailed feeding schedules. The idea was that if you could get your baby on a schedule, you could make your life easier if you were entering the workforce. For a woman who breastfeeds, this allows potential for supply issues to creep in. Breastfeeding is supply and demand. The more frequently milk is removed, the more the body is stimulated to produce more milk. Less stimulation, less milk. Isn’t it interesting that, at this point in history, is when women began experiencing lactation failure and many became unable to produce enough milk for their babies?

For some moms and babies, the 3 hour schedule may work without a hitch. For others, it doesn’t, and that’s okay! I’ve seen moms of young babies stressed about not having their baby on a schedule, and for what? Why should new mothers have even more to worry about on top of everything else? Just because society tells you that your baby should eat every 3 hours doesn’t mean that’s what is best for your baby.

So how will you know if you should ditch the idea of a schedule?

Your baby shows signs of hunger sooner than the allotted 3 hours.

Signs of hunger include licking lips, sticking the tongue out, rooting, putting hands to the mouth, attempting to get into a nursing position, and restless and fidgety movements. Noticing early signs and responding quickly will keep everybody happier.

Keep in mind that babies also nurse for more than just hunger. They may want to nurse when they are scared, cold, hot, thirsty, for pain relief, or really any emotion they could possibly feel. If baby is upset, whip it out and you’ll likely bring equilibrium back to her world.

Your begin to struggle with your milk supply.

Again, it’s all about supply and demand. If you notice your supply dropping, nurse more. More frequent milk removal sends signals to your body that it needs to ramp up production. If you watch the clock between feedings and only remove milk every three hours, your body may be getting the signal that it doesn’t need to make as much.


In the end, you know your baby the best. Follow your instincts, gather information, and try to ignore the pressure you may feel about the feeding schedule! When you’re well informed on a topic, you’re more confident in your choices. Confident mothers are guilt-free mothers! Ain’t nobody got time for guilt! You’ve got this, mama!


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