Friday, July 12, 2013

Reader Request: Scheduled Newborn Feedings


Mason's mom from Silver Lining Decor has requested a special post:
 "You mentioned that you put Billy on a strict 3 hour feeding schedule and have had 7-9 hour nights of sleep since then. Can you do a post about that and how you did it? Is he sleeping a straight 7-9 hours without waking? Was it hard? How much do you feed him every 3 hours? Would love to know how it is all going for you."
What a fun question and awesome request!! I'm thrilled to oblige. This is a long one, so bear with me!

You will read on Monday over at Parenting Without A Parachute that I was in denial for the first five weeks Billy was around. I wanted to think he would magically stop cluster feeding and screaming around the clock.

One day, while at my wits' end I opened the book The Happiest Baby On The Block and immediately began applying the methods described to help soothe Billy. I read in the book that colic doesn't necessarily mean gassy or digestive distress, it just means cranky at least once per day for no reason at all! Lightbulb, that was Billy.  

Since he was five weeks old at the time, I realized he probably doesn't need to nurse every 25 minutes. He's probably just fussing to fuss because he wishes he were still back inside me. I began to use the methods in the book to soothe him and calm him down when he started to wind up, instead of immediately giving him a breast.

At the time he had gone up to four hours between feedings, so I knew starting out at two hour increments would be possible, I wasn't going to starve him. When he would fuss, I would use the 5 S's to calm him down and get him to sleep....which is where it started getting interesting.

I didn't just magically Swaddle, Side-lay, Shh and Swing him to sleep...many days he would get to Swing and still be screaming...and he would shoot the paci back at me like it were a missile. So there I was, in my living room sleepless and wrecked with distress as a wailing newborn told me, "Nice try, Mama!".

I started getting creative at this point. I would put him in his swing and begin levels of white noise, starting with the built-in water sounds. If he continued to cry, I added a level of noise. Fan, vacuum, radio, TV, iPhone with music playing, shower, bathroom fan.... all on top of one another. I'm positive the neighbors thought I should be sent away based on the racket coming from my house.

Sometimes Billy just needed to cry. There was absolutely nothing in the world that would stop him, except noise. A LOTTT of noise. The noisier the house got, the quieter he did. Eventually, I could scale the noise level back to only the water sounds from the swing and he would sleep like a little saint until it was time to officially eat.  - That's what I would do if we had an hour or more to make it until the next feeding.

But what about if we only have 15-30 minutes to go? I got creative then, too. I would take him for a walk and smile while he wailed and I passed the neighbors, he would get a bath or we would sing and dance and play...anything to help the time pass and get him to last a little longer. I had to tell myself, "He has a dry diaper and he's healthy. I'm not starving him, I'm helping him."*

By the third day Billy was set; on a schedule and going anywhere from 3-4 hours between feedings.

When he was 7 weeks old, he began sleeping 7-9 hours per night without waking with that white noise water sound on and swaddled up tight.

Here is our typical schedule for the last 3.5 weeks: Up at 6:30am to nurse and awake for the day, nurse "on the 3's" (what I like to say) all day, so 9:30, 12:30, 3:30, 6:30. Last nurse for the day is 8:30pm, I find nursing him at 2 hours before bed helps keep his tummy really full. He will get changed and into jammies/swaddled by 9:00pm and laid to bed. If he's awake, he coos himself to sleep. White noise machine is on (aka iPod in a dock playing beach waves) and lights are off. He's typically asleep by 9:30.

If I'm paying close attention to him nursing (and not staring at McDreamy on Grey's Anatomy or fiddling on Facebook on my iPhone...), he nurses 9-12 minutes on my left side, then 5-7 minutes on my right. I learned from pumping my right side lets down twice as fast as my left, which is why I start on the left every time (I am also still healing on my right, so I prefer his softer "second" latch for that breast). Starting him on the right he will "choke" and gag because it lets down so fast and he's so hungry he tries to gulp which typically will result in spit up later, and a cranky baby.

I also always force him to take both breasts. If he falls asleep after one, I change him or dance with him or strip him naked completely to wake him up all the way and put him on the second breast. This is VERY important for our schedule because if I don't, he will wake in an hour for the other breast, repeat repeat repeat until I cry from exhaustion.

I learned if he has to wait to eat, he focuses better, eats more efficiently and is perfectly content to nap or play in between feedings because he is truly full. Nursing him "on demand" was really nursing him every 25 minutes and he wasn't eating, he was just chewing and fussing at the breast. Now he gets there, does his business and is off to nap or play!

He has now snapped out of being colicky 100% and is just a sweet little baby boy. He gets fussy sometimes like anyone else, but he doesn't spend his free time reaching a new decibel in his cry scale  and that makes me one heck of a happy mama! I was prepared to keep using the 5 S's until he was 12 weeks if I needed to (they tend to snap out of it around then) but somewhere in the 7-8 week mark (when he started sleeping long stretches...) he became just a normal, happy little guy.

I hope this posts helps some of you mamas with fussy babes and helps keep them happy and sleeping!! If you are looking for more information please feel free to tweet or email me :) Good luck, mamas! Remember, you are amazing at what you do!!! Your baby is proof of that. 

*Talk with your pediatrician before applying any principles you are uncomfortable with. I am not a doctor and I am merely sharing my story, this worked for us but all babies are different! When unsure, always seek professional help or guidance. 


  1. Thank you so much, Jess!! This was very interesting for me to read. The funny thing is that I started a post about my colicky baby last night, but then put it in draft mode. At 7 weeks, we are getting a little better but we still have a few crying spells that just seem inconsolable and I can't identify a reason for it. Problem is, on top of being colicky, Mason has acid reflux so that adds to the fun. We will be playing and laughing one minute, and the next it turns into full on screaming. Seems like out of nowhere. I read about the 5 S's and try to apply them as often as possible. You know what we've found, is that the exhaust fan above the stove works wonders! Thanks again for the post!!

    1. My pleasure!! I hope Mason finds comfort and relief soon!!