Keeping a Feeding Schedule for Newborn

By Amanda Caswell

Typically in the hospital the nurses will ask you to keep track of how often you breastfeed, how long the baby eats and how often you change your baby’s diaper. Even after leaving the hospital, some mothers feel more comfortable keeping a log of this information. Most mothers will benefit from the safety net of logging the feedings and diaper changes until they are reassured that they have established a healthy breastfeeding schedule with their baby. Tracking this information also provides a nice reference for the baby’s doctor to ensure that the baby’s weight gain pattern is adequate. Documenting is a healthy way to address any concerns should they arise.

There are a number of ways to track the breastfeeding data, including an Excel or Word Document, a simple notebook, or with an app for your smartphone. Whichever method you choose, it is in your best interest to be sure it is portable or printable so you can bring it to your baby’s pediatrician appointments as it will provide valuable information for your doctor. Of course, having a portable documentation method is also handy for you as you may not be breastfeeding in the same location ever feeding.

New moms might be wondering what exactly they need to track. If you’re breastfeeding, you should be writing down the time you begin and end each nursing session, which breast you start on, whether you switch breasts during the feeding and how long on each breast you nurse. If you are bottle-feeding, track the time you begin and end each feeding session as well as the number of ounces your baby eats during the session.

This valuable information will help you learn a number of things. If your baby is not gaining the recommended amount of weight your doctor recommends for his age, then a feeding chart might help you and your doctor figure out exactly why. Additionally, a feeding chart will help you become more aware of your baby’s hunger patterns, allowing to you to create a routine to suit your baby’s needs.

Developing a Feeding Schedule for Newborn

From the moment your baby is born, chances are he or she is going to be hungry. Almost immediately after giving birth, your baby will probably be ready to eat.  But from there, it can get tricky. Knowing how soon your baby needs to feed again, how often he or she should be eating or how to establish an eating schedule is often confusing to new mothers.

One thing that is often surprising to new mothers is just how much their child can eat. In fact, some experts say many women worry that they are not making enough milk because of how often their baby eats.  Upon tracking the amount their baby is eating, new moms think that because their baby is eating so often, or because their breasts do not feel as full as they did in the beginning, that they are not producing enough milk for their child. The fact is, this is almost never true.

But keep in mind that because breastmilk is so easy to digest, babies who breastfeed eat more often than those who eat formula. The schedule is, on average, every one and a half to two hours. This is morning and night. However, you do not need to wake your baby to feed him at night. If he is sleeping, even if two hours has passed, let him sleep!

Once you have developed a regular schedule, the feedings may drop from 12 to 8 times a day. However, depending on growth spurts, the feedings may go back up. And, you will find that some days your baby simply needs more milk. Just like adults they may be hungrier on some days more than others. Keeping track of your baby’s breastfeeding schedule will help you anticipate when they will be hungry and you will be able to pinpoint when the growth spurts are happening.

Tracking the Breast

As you are tracking the feedings, you also need to keep track of which breast you are using at each feeding. Up until a few years ago, doctors suggested that women switch breasts in the middle of the feeding. The baby would start on one breast and finish on the other. However, today doctors believe that one breast per feeding is best. The reason for this new development is because there are two types of milk in each breast. The first type of milk expressed is “fore milk” which simply quenches the baby’s thirst while supplying proteins and minerals, sugars and fluid. However, the “hind milk” or second type of milk following the fore milk is much more filling and hardier. It is a creamy, high fat, milk which supplies satisfying and nutritious milk. It is crucial for your baby’s growth and development.

Another perk of using only one breast per feeding is that the more watery fore milk is what often causes cramps and gas. By sticking to only one side per feeding, your baby will have less gas and will feel better which will make him less cranky. You can keep track of which side you feed on with an app or documenting it in your notebook or breastfeeding chart. Other trick is putting a safety pin on your bra strap. Move the safety pin after each feeding to the breast you need to start on for the next feeding. You could use this switching side method with a bracelet, hair tie or ring.

Your doctor will help you determine exactly how much your baby should be eating. Every newborn has their own individual needs so be sure to follow your baby’s cries and cues as a guideline. During the first month, babies that are bottle fed should drink approximately 2 to 3 ounces every 3 to 4 hours. After the first month to 6 months, your baby should be consuming about 4 to 6 ounces every 4 hours. Babies who are breastfed will need to eat for 20 to 60 minutes between eight to twelve times a day.

With all these numbers and the fact that you’re a new mom and probably running on very little sleep, it can be tough to keep track of everything in your head. Luckily, there are a number of helpful resources and tools to help take the guesswork out of breastfeeding and diaper changes. The following are a few popular options to consider for your tracking needs.

SmartPhone Tracking Apps

  1. Baby Nursing/Feeding: Brought to you by American Baby magazine and Sevenlogics Inc. this easy-to-use app helps you track your baby’s nursing progress, growth, diaper changes, doctor’s visits, and more. This is a free app available on the App Store. You can record all the feedings by simply pressing “Start” and “Stop.” This app will help you keep track of your most recent feedings, daily average, and accumulative totals.
  2. LactMed: As a breastfeeding mom it is important to be aware how the medicines you take affect your baby. This app is part of the National Library of Medicine’s Toxicology Data Network and has an entire database of drugs and dietary supplement that may affect a woman’s breast milk. The app includes information on the levels of the substances in breast milk as well as in infant blood and possible adverse side effects in the nursing infant. Where appropriate, therapeutic alternatives to the drugs are suggested. This app is free and available on the App Store.
  3. Medela: This free app from the App Store can track the feeding schedules for up to 6 babies! You can track your baby’s weight, feeding schedule and diaper changes. It also provides breastfeeding and pumping friendly locations in your area. Breastfeeding/pumping tips and storage guidelines also make this a helpful tool for any breastfeeding mother.
  4. Baby Feeding Log: This app gets right down to business with no frills. Keep track of everything from breastfeeding, bottle feeding, diaper changes and sleep schedules. All of the information can be easily emailed to the user in the form of a spreadsheet.
  5. Eat Sleep: Simple Baby Tracking: You can simply track your baby’s eating, sleeping and diaper habits without messing with timers, alarms or even typing. This free app available on the App Store lets you keep track of all of the important stuff with a one-finger tap style. You can view all of the eating, sleeping and diaper events for each day or view the combined or individual history of any activity. This app lets you keep track of trends from day to day, week to week and month to month so you can be ultra-aware of your child’s habits. Another great feature of this app is the note-taking features that allows you to track special events or a change in the routine. This app works for multiple children at once if necessary.
  6. Pump@work: Developed by a Certified Lactation Consultant, this app is total breastmilk management. Tracking tools and advice are at your fingertips. The features include custom daily milk packaging recommendations, daily breastfeeding news and educational tips on breastfeeding, storage, health and tips to ease the transition as you head back to work. All of the tips, tracking information, history of breastfeeding and storage graphs can be instantly emailed to you. Multiples can be tracked using this app too. The overall goal is to help reduce breast milk waste and track your baby’s feeding schedule even as you head back to work. The cost is $1.99 on the App Store with 50% of the profits donated to California Breastfeeding Coalition.

Another tool you might want to consider is a Breastfeeding Chart. You can download these for free on the internet. These can help you keep track of what time you last breastfed, for how long, and what the output was. With a breastfeeding chart you will easily be able to see if your baby is getting enough milk. Because it is portable and all you need is a pen, you can take it with you and keep your baby on a regular feeding routine. Some women like to use a breastfeeding chart instead of an app because it allows the husband, partner or caretaker to see the schedule as well as add any necessary documentation.

Yes, It’s Normal!

As much as you do to keep track of feedings, it’s necessary to know that your baby’s schedule could change at any time. Even after a pattern has been established, one day he will be eating every two hours, the next he may cluster feed. While a schedule is important to follow, be prepared and flexible for changes. The following things are normal so, if you are like other new moms, you can stop worrying about them:

  1. Frequent and long feedings. Typically, your baby will feed for about 20 to 30 minutes. However, some days it might be longer and more frequent. Just as you are finishing burping your baby after a feeding, he might be ready to eat again. This is normal and healthy.
  2. Changing nursing pattern from one day to the next. One night your baby make wake up 3 or 4 times during the night to feed, other nights only 1 or 2. It is normal to have a varying feeding pattern. For the most part, your baby will eat around the same time every day with variances based on growth spurts.During growth spurts, your baby will nurse more often for several days and may act fussy. Common spurts occur the first few days at home, 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, and 4-6 weeks.
  3. Cluster nursing (very frequent to constant nursing) for several hours, usually in the evenings is normal. The cluster feedings may coincide with the fussy times that happen during growth spurts for the first few months.

While you may not need to track your baby’s feedings and diaper changes for more than a few months, it will certainly help you in the beginning. Documenting will give you a better understanding of what to discuss with your doctor and most of all give you peace of mind that your child is eating enough, gaining weight, and has a healthy digestive system.