Infant feeding routines:
3 hour feeds vs. 4 hour feeds

Dearest full feedings family,

If you take any advice from me, please listen when I tell you feeding your baby closer together is one of the most important ingredients in consistent nighttime sleep.

I believe feeding your baby closer together will get you more total milk for the day, even if your baby eats slightly less per feed. And since we are working to make sure your baby is fully fed during the daytime hours (so there is no need to feed at night and we can sleep), it would follow that feeding closer together would help your baby to establish and maintain consistent nighttime sleep faster than feeding further apart.

While greater daytime milk is one of the main reasons to feed your baby at least every 3 hours during the day, it is not the only reason I recommend keeping feeds closer together until your little one is sleeping through the night.

Here are some other reasons I suggest feeding your baby every 2-3 hours during the day.

Feeding further apart will mean 1 less feed per day. As mentioned above, this will likely mean less total food for the day, even if baby eats slightly more, further apart.

Let’s break it down:

4 hour feeds = 7am, 11am, 3pm, 7pm = 4 feeds x 8 ounces  = 32 ounces of milk
3 hour feeds = 7am, 10am, 1pm, 4pm, 7pm = 5 feeds x 7 ounces  = 35 ounces of milk

Clearly, feeding every 3 hours vs. every 4 hours will typically get you more total milk for the day, which, in my opinion, is one of the most important ingredients in consistent nighttime sleep.

Being flexible with feeds + feeding every 2-3 hours can keep baby from becoming overtired. Fixed feed times can often lead to keeping your baby awake longer than what is age-appropriate to accommodate feedings and this can compromise consistent nighttime sleep. Short naps are inevitable and if we aren’t flexible enough with our feed times, we can cause the very sleep disruptions we are trying to avoid.

Feeding every 4 hours will require you to keep your baby awake longer than I would recommend, and having an overtired baby can compromise consistent daytime and nighttime sleep. I find it far better to feed at least every 2-3 hours during the daytime, as this will ensure baby doesn’t become overly tired in any period.

Feeding further apart can cause too much daytime sleep. If you are following age-appropriate wake windows to prevent baby from becoming overly tired, and baby is feeding 4-hours apart, it will cause baby to sleep too much during the day. And too much daytime sleep, at any given age, can cause nighttime sleep disruptions. It’s that simple.

Listen, I know feeding a baby is a lot of work. And no one tells you exactly how frequently you are going to be feeding your little one when they first come home from the hospital. I get the desire to lessen the workload because motherhood is full on, but I would encourage you to continue to feed your baby fully every 2-3 hours during the day, until they are sleeping through the night. I find it far easier to establish consistent nighttime sleep when you are flexible with feed times & feed your baby fully every 2-3 hours during the daytime hours.

Once they are sleeping through the night, you can work to lengthen time between feedings, but just not at the expense of your consistent nighttime sleep.

Remember, hungry babies don’t sleep well and if your baby isn’t fully fed during the day, you will need to continue to feed them at night.

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