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On-Demand vs. Scheduled Feeding: Which is Best for Baby?

Written by Ashley Treadwell, IBCLC

Google can be an amazing resource - but it can also provide WAY too much information for a first-time mom.  One of the questions we get often from our clients is what is the best way to feed a breastfed baby - let the baby demand when to feed or try to shape their feedings into a structured schedule?  Moms hear a lot of differing information about when to feed their babies in the early weeks - every 2-3 hours, 8-12 times in a 24 hour period, etc.  It can be confusing to know what this means exactly - is it every 2 hours or every 3 hours?  What if baby goes longer than 3 hours?  What if baby seems hungry before 2 hours?  What if baby wants to feed 15 times a day, or maybe only 7?  How do you know when you should feed your baby?  Here’s the short answer:




On-demand feeding is absolutely the *best* way to feed your baby in the early days, weeks, and months.  As time goes on, your baby is likely to start to shape his/her own behavior into a somewhat more-predictable schedule, but trying to make/force/help them to do that before he/she is ready only makes for a stressed out mama and a cranky baby.  


What is Demand Feeding and What Are the Benefits?



Feeding your baby “on-demand” simply means not worrying about the clock.  You feed your baby whenever he/she shows you that he/she is hungry.  Common ways your baby will show you this include licking his/her lips, sticking out his/her tongue, rooting around, sucking on his/her hands, etc.  Feeding your baby on-demand also means that you don’t “time” the feedings, (15 minutes per side, etc.) but that you allow your baby to feed until he/she is  satisfied.  It can be confusing to know when a baby’s had enough - some good cues are a baby who de-latches him/herself from the breast and doesn’t try to get back on, or falls asleep at the breast and feels very relaxed and loose when you lift his/her arm.

There are a LOT of benefits to on-demand feeding.  In the immediate days following birth, putting a baby to breast at any and all hunger cues is excellent for bringing in a full milk supply.  Simply, the more breast stimulation a brand-new mom gets, the better her milk supply will be.  On-demand feeding is also a good way to ensure that baby will get enough milk to grow properly.  Mothers have different storage capacities in their breasts, and all babies take in different amounts - even the same baby will take differing amounts throughout a day.  



We have no way of knowing exactly how much a baby takes at each feeding, so how can you be sure the baby took enough to sustain him/herself until the next scheduled feed?  Another thing to keep in mind is that there is so much more to breastfeeding than just the nutrition and calories your baby consumes.  Breastfeeding is warmth, comfort and nurturing - things that should never be withheld from our children.  In my opinion, the best benefit is one of the biggest pros to breastfeeding in general: once breastfeeding is going smoothly, you don’t have to time, track, measure, or log.  You just snuggle your baby and follow his/her lead.

*** There is ONE small parameter that we often recommend during the first few weeks postpartum with respect to on-demand feeding.  Some babies are very tired for the first few weeks and may not wake up on their own to feed 8 or more times in 24 hours.  This is most common for babies born prematurely, babies with jaundice, babies with tongue ties, and babies who are having a difficult time gaining weight.  Ineffective and infrequent feedings can cause slow weight gain and can possibly cause mom’s milk supply to not come in as fully as possible.  Therefore, to help babies get back to birth weight by 2 weeks of life, we recommend that parents wake their babies to feed at least every 3 hours during the day and at least every 4 hours at night for the first few weeks.  If your baby is back to birth weight by two weeks, then this parameter is lifted and on-demand feeding can commence!


What About Scheduled Feedings?

On the other hand, scheduled feeding can sometimes be sabotaging to a breastfeeding relationship, as well as to your baby’s overall health and growth pattern.  Scheduled feedings are when a parent chooses a timed feeding interval based on things like baby’s weight or age, and only feeds baby at these intervals, regardless of baby’s cues or readiness.  As pointed out above, when a baby feeds at the breast, we don’t know how much the baby is taking - so there is no way for us to know how long baby can go before he/she needs to feed again.  In the early days, if your baby is not put to the breast when hungry, it can have a negative impact on your milk supply.  Later on, it can affect baby’s sleep patterns, as well as their growth and development.  Scheduled feeding also doesn’t allow for growth spurts - a time when your baby will ask to feed much more often than normal, helping to increase your milk supply as your baby grows bigger.  If your baby isn’t allowed to feed more frequently during these times, your milk supply may not be able to meet your baby’s growing need.  Lastly, not putting your baby to breast when baby is asking to feed causes your baby to miss out on the non-nutritive benefits like the bonding and comfort your baby craves.

One of the biggest challenges we hear from mothers about on-demand feeding is that they feel overworked and tired from being available at all times.  This is a common stress for many moms in the early weeks, but be encouraged - it passes.  It will seem like your baby is feeding ALL.THE.TIME in those first 6 weeks or so, but it will pass. As time goes on, your baby will begin to form his/her own schedule - or at least you’ll grow better accustomed with his/her pattern and behaviors.   A great solution to this is to learn to breastfeed in a carrier as that will allow you to not be chained to the couch when your baby is hungry.  Check out how to do that on our YouTube Channel: DIY Breastfeeding.  Another great solution for the over-tired mom is to bring your baby into your bed at night.  This often helps all to get more rest.  If you have any concerns about safely co-sleeping with your baby - check out these guidelines here.  

When did you notice that your baby’s feeding schedule became more predictable?



Join the Normalize Breastfeeding Campaign

The San Diego Breastfeeding Center is so excited to announce that we are the newest local sponsor of the Normalize Breastfeeding Campaign, a project who's mission is to normalize breastfeeding and address the taboo of public breastfeeding in modern society, through photography.  




Vanessa Simmons, a Ghanaian-American photographer,  mother of three, and founder of, started her breastfeeding awareness media campaign in June 2014 by posting photos of breastfeeding women on social media.  Now with over 7,200 Facebook followers, 50 volunteer social media admins, and a website, Vanessa has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for her Normalize Breastfeeding OB/Pediatrician and WIC Offices book.  The content of the book will be a collection of stories from the women who Simmons photographs and from the stories featured on her blog. She will be sharing her own breastfeeding stories in greater detail, as well.  The money raised through the Kickstarter campaign will fund expenses for Simmons to travel to cities and towns, throughout the United States, to photograph the many ways that breastfeeding is 'normal.'  


So, what does 'normal breastfeeding' include?  

Pretty much everything, which is why we are so passionate about helping Vanessa raise this money!  We can't wait to see more photographs of breastfeeding mothers of color, mothers breastfeeding preemies, mothers using supplemental nursing systems, exclusively pumping moms, tandem nursing moms, breastfeeding in public, and moms nursing their toddlers and preschoolers!  AND, we cannot wait to get these Normalize Breastfeeding books into OBGYN, Midwife, and Pediatrician offices, hopefully inspiring mothers to find themselves in these photographs, making breastfeeding more accessible and creating a new definition for 'normal breastfeeding.'  


How can YOU help?






Join us today to help normalize breastfeeding by donating to the Normalize Breastfeeding Kickstarter Campaign!



We’re Moving to Hillcrest!

After two wonderful years at our University Heights office and FOUR years at Baby Garten Studio, the San Diego Breastfeeding Center is moving to a brand new location!

In our new Hillcrest office, we will now have in-office consultations FIVE days a week, as well as our popular Wednesday breastfeeding support group… all in one location!  Plus, all of those lactation supplements you’ve had to order on Amazon or pick up at Sprouts will now be sold at our office for your convenience.  It is truly your one-stop shop for judgment-free breastfeeding support.

So, starting December 1, 2014, our new office and Wednesday support group address will be: 


3355 4th Ave.

San Diego, CA 92103


As always, our free Wednesday breastfeeding support group will take place from 12:30pm-2pm, just now in the classroom in our brand new space.  Just as in South Park, there is plenty of street parking.  Stroller parking is limited, so consider wearing your baby from your parking spot to the group.

Starting December 1, 2014, you can book an in-office breastfeeding consultation, Monday through Friday, through our online booking system.  We will continue our in-home breastfeeding consultations, as well… just give us a call to schedule one of those.

We want to express our sincere gratitude to Baby Garten Studio and Mother to Mother Midwifery for housing our office and support group for so many years.  We will miss being in those beautiful locations, but are extremely excited to be able to expand our services and provide more availability for our moms and babies!

Happy Thanksgiving and see you in Hillcrest in December!



It's Here! Our DIY Breastfeeding YouTube Channel

Ever wish you could actually watch a mama breastfeed her baby in a laid-back position because you couldn't picture it in your mind from the blog article you just read?  Wonder how you can tell if your pump flanges are fitting correctly? Well, look no further!

Today, we are beyond excited to annouce our newest baby, DIY Breastfeeding!  



What is DIY Breastfeeding?

On our DIY Breastfeeding YouTube channel, you will find 2-3 minute instructional videos about different breastfeeding topics, ranging from positions to latching to pumping and more!  Each video was recorded with one of our lactation consultants and some super cute local moms and babies.  


Which topics will be included on DIY Breastfeeding?



A few months ago we started collecting video topics from all of you and your ideas were AWESOME!  We are proud to say that today we are launching our channel with 10 stellar videos fitting into 5 different categories. Here are our current categories:

Breastfeeding While Babywearing


Breastfeeding Position

Pumping Strategies

Breastfeeding Twins


Lastly, we would like to share a HUGE amount of gratitude to our DIY Breastfeeding partner, New Mommy Media!  Without Sunny's awesome video shooting and editing expertise, these videos would look completely amateur and out of focus!  Sunny, we adore you to pieces and we cannot wait to create more videos with you!

So head on over to DIY Breastfeeding!  Let us know what you think about the videos and share your ideas for additional topics/categories you would like for us to include.


Which other topics/categories would you like to see included? 


It’s All About the Boobs!


Written by Ashley Treadwell, IBCLC


We hear so much about the benefits of breastfeeding for baby - the amazing immunity they get, the perfect nutrition, the bonding with mom.  We also hear a lot about the benefits of breastfeeding for moms - the output of good hormones, reduced risk of breast cancer, weight loss!  But what about the benefits of breastfeeding that specifically affect the partner?  We asked our fans for their ideas and here are some of the answers we got!  



  • Hillary:  The ability to hand over a fussy baby and say "here, he wants boob" and walk away.

  • April: They don't have to wash bottles either, or wake up in the middle of the night.

  • Colleen: The diapers are less unpleasant to change.

  • Elisabeth: Cost. That's a big one. Formula is expensive! The health problems later could potentially cost money too.

  • Julie: The satisfaction of knowing that you're doing the best thing for your child. My husband was very active in working with me on positioning and latching early on and when we lay in bed to nurse to sleep, he lays with us. Most nights she pops off several times to play with him. Dads can definitely be a participant in breastfeeding!

  • Anna Mar: Big boobs

  • Megan: The benefit of watching the mother of your child show ultimate love and patience toward their baby. Breastfeeding is such a extraordinary part of what us women do for their world. We have the capability to give the best nutrients to another life. That's such a miracle in itself that it is a learning time for the partner to see. The woman is giving of her love, time and energy. Such a sacrifice and that's very much a reason for the partner to strengthen their relationship!



Here are just a few more from us!

  • A happy wife!  Breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin, which is often called the “mothering” hormone.  It helps to decrease blood pressure and stress, which makes a mama happier, which makes life a lot easier for her partner, as well.  

  • Birth Control.  If dad is nervous about having another baby soon, exclusive breastfeeding can act as a natural birth control.  No condoms or pills needed!  (Note - there are specific instances when breastfeeding can and cannot be used as an effective form of birth control - as mentioned here.)

  • You can soothe your baby when your wife can’t. Sounds strange, right?  But often, in the early weeks and months, a baby grows fussy the minute mom picks him/her up, as he/she smell mom’s milk and wants it.  When mom hands that fussy baby over to her partner, the baby often calms down immediately!  This could mean a lot of fuss-free snuggle time for dad and mom.

It goes without saying - breastfeeding is good for the entire family!  


What are your partner's favorite reasons to support breastfeeding?