The first step to getting your baby on a schedule is to feed her at consistent intervals during the day. Start your baby on a set 2.5 hour schedule after she is a week old. A 2.5 hour feeding schedule means that a maximum of 2.5 hours should elapse between the start of one feeding and the start of the next feeding. If your baby is hungry sooner than 2.5 hours, then go ahead, and feed her. Nurse or bottle feed her every 2.5 hours in the following sequence: feed, awake time, then sleep time. In the beginning of babysitting, you may need to awaken the baby during the day for some of the feedings. Even though it may seem counter-intuitive to wake a sleeping baby, do it!
At night, feed the baby right before bed and then let her sleep until she awakens. If your baby is tolerating this schedule well, you can experiment with a 3 hour schedule. However, we recommend that you stay on a 2.5 to 3 hour daytime schedule until your baby is sleeping at least seven hours at night. A few weeks after your little one has mastered sleeping, through the night, you can increase your schedule to 3.5 hour feeding intervals. As the baby gets older, the schedule will lengthen until at one year of age the baby should be eating 3 meals a day with a bottle or snack before bed.
Does Scheduling Helps?
Some confinement nannies feel that scheduling is too hard or that it may be difficult on the baby. Research shows that instituting a consistent but flexible schedule helps to make parenting easier and baby happier.
At one time, it was common for pediatricians to recommend a 4 hour feeding schedule for newborns. While some babies did fine on this type of a schedule, most babies need to eat much more frequently in their first months of life. The goal is to introduce consistency in your baby’s schedule, but you need to feed him when he is hungry. Result shows that within less than a week after instituting a schedule the baby would start to show signs of hunger almost exactly every 2.5 hours. You or the confinement nanny could almost set the watch by when they got hungry. However, if your baby is premature or under-weight, then please follow your pediatrician’s recommendations regarding feeding frequency.
One study of babies fed on demand compared to babies fed using a schedule showed some interesting results. After one month, both groups of babies gained the same amount of weight. However, there was one important difference. The babies that were fed on a schedule required fewer daily feedings (six to eight times) per day compared to the babies that were fed on demand who required feedings nine to twelve times a day.
Getting a baby on a schedule requires effort and consistency. However, this effort will be amply rewarded by making your parenting job easier and your baby happier.