Q: Hi. My daughter is almost 7 weeks old and is exclusively breast fed. I’m currently feeding her every 3 hours during the day, and she goes anywhere between 5.5 to 7 hours at night (typically I aim to feed her with a 6 hour stretch at night, but sometimes have to wake her to do so). She’s a healthy weight (9lbs 6oz at 1 month; was 6lbs 15oz at birth) and eats and sleeps well. In fact, lately, I’ve had to wake her from a deep sleep for many of her daytime feedings. When should I start lengthening the time between her daytime feeds (what is the typical schedule of time between feedings for each month/age for breast fed babies) and how long can/should I be letting her go at night? Thanks!
A: Congratulations! I am so glad breast feeding is going well. Pediatricians recommend that the first 2 weeks of life you strictly adhere to the every 2-3 hour feeding schedule, even through the night. However, once you have cemented breast feeding and it has been proven that the newborn is going to gain weight adequately we loosen up considerably. It is much better for a child your daughter’s age to feed “on demand” as they know what they need better than we do!
You can start now letting her sleep as long as she will at night. What works for most moms is to do a feeding in the later evening (between 9-11pm) and then put the child down for the night. By age 4 months or so most babies will go at least 8 hours. It is safe for babies 2 months and up to sleep 8-10 hours with no feeding at night.
Daytime can get a little tricky because you do not want her to stretch out her feedings so much that she then decides to feed all night. Spend a couple of days allowing her to wake to feed during the day and see what rhythm she gives you. Use 4 hours as your maximum between feeds during the day. You may find that she likes to cluster feed (nurse every 1-2 hours) for part of the day and then crash for a nice 4 hour nap. Or you may find that she just wants a little more space between feedings and will self wake and be ready for feeding on the 3 hour mark.
The more active your baby is during awake periods will often predict how routinely and easily she naps. That does not mean you need to put a 2 month old on a work out program! However, you should play with her, give her belly time, read to her, sing songs, show her toys etc during awake times so that she benefits from all the developmental stimuli and gets tired and ready for her next sleep.