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Infants » Sleeping, Feeding, Eating

Newborn Feeding Schedule

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Dear Susan:

My son Tyler is 6 weeks old. Recently I’ve noticed he has lost his feeding/sleeping schedule. I know that most infants don’t have a schedule yet but the one he had lasted for a while. He would drink 4 ounces and sleep for 2 hours, sleeping the most when we did (from midnight to 4 or 4:30 a.m. mostly). Then he is up in 2 hours again for a feeding. The problem is that he doesn’t always fall asleep after eating. Most of the time he stays up for the next one. Yesterday he was up for 4 hours! He eats between 4-6 ounces but not every time. Some days he falls asleep after 2 ounces and will sleep for 2 hours. He will fuss a lot and sometimes he wants more food, as much as 8 ounces at once. Or he needs changed, burped, gas, or just some fun time of singing etc.

My question: is there anything I can do to get his pattern back and does his eating schedule affect this. Should I force him to have the whole bottle (He often falls asleep during feedings.)



Dear Carey:

At 6 weeks (no 7, sorry for the delay) Tyler is in charge! Actually by 1 month of age, an infant can communicate his feelings and sensations so clearly that you and your husband know what he wants when he wants it. His cries are very different. Babies repeat pleasurable acts from birth, so if it was pleasurable for him to sleep at certain times, then he settles on that for awhile.

His digestion, need for warmth, need for change of position, or light or temperature, or his “skin hunger” (yes, babies need touch every bit as much as milk and water) all contribute to his activity day or night and his so called “schedule” for that day or a few days.

Don’t call it a schedule because it’s really more about the rhythms of his reflexes and body states. He’s just flexing his sensory muscles and actively responding to what his body senses. This actually is the art of “thinking” as well as feeling.

The best thing you can do for Tyler is to encourage and extend his alert wake periods and engage him with holding, swaddling, exercising, singing to him, etc. Don’t use a motorized swing unless he is smiley and happy. The mechanical swing motion makes a crying infant irritable on the inside of his body. The movement creates agitation and even swallowing and sucking reflexes change.

When he is sleepy, don’t force feeding but try to keep him awake for at least 15-20 minutes of feeding time. Change his position and feed him over your knees, with water or formula even if you‘re nursing. Change the nursing positions at least every 5 o 6 minutes, so he can arouse himself and get started again. You can stimulate sucking and rooting refluxes by tapping his cheek, chin, forehead.

Talking to babies, playing with babies, changing positions, frequently are ways you can watch and observe his preferences and what he likes. It’s amazing how much control Tyler has, so give him high marks for organizing your life around him.

Self-regulation and a sensible schedule do not take place until 2-1/2 or 3-3 ½ months because of the growth of the organs, brain cells and length and weight of the developing infant. By 3 months, the brain size has doubled and all internal systems. Lungs, heart, muscles, nerve fibers and many other body parts are tuned up and ready to conform to the outside world’s demands. Than you can be more in charge and push a little to get spacing of feeding and playing during the day and we can talk about some night time tricks to get him to sleep longer at night.

For now, every 3 hours is long as he can hold off hunger or other internal functions. His stomach at 3 months is no bigger than a large cherry tomato and an ounce of fluid is no more than the size of a gumball if you look at it as containing liquid. Tyler sounds like he has parents who will pay attention to his body cues and changes of expression and types of crying, and he is lucky to have you ! Write again if you need to .

Susan H. Turben, Ph.D.

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