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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Breast and Bottle: Knowing When To Drop A Feeding

When you bring baby home from the hospital, you will most likely be feeding her anywhere from 8-10 times throughout the day.

By the time she is 1 year old, she will be down to 2-3 bottles and ready to transition from formula/breast to cow's milk!

There are constant changes in feeding schedules throughout this first year.

It can be difficult to know when to drop feedings, especially if you are breastfeeding. 

Here is a look at what the timeline looked like for us during the 1st year with regards to breastfeeding:

Note: MOTN means middle of the night

Newborn (1-2 weeks):
8 scheduled feedings during the day + ~3 MOTN feedings
Newborn (3-4 weeks):
6 scheduled feedings during the day + 1 MOTN feeding
Month 2:
7 scheduled feedings during the day + 2 MOTN feedings
Month 3:
5 scheduled feedings during the day + 1 MOTN feeding
Months 4-8:
4 scheduled feedings during the day & no MOTN feeding
*Started solid food in month 4 

Month 9:
3 scheduled feedings during the day & no MOTN feeding

Month 10:
2 scheduled feedings during the day & no MOTN feeding

Month 11: 0 scheduled feedings (we had to wean to cows milk 1 month early due to a medication that I needed to be on) & no MOTN feeding.
*I would have dropped to 1 scheduled feeding during this month otherwise

You'll notice that in month 2 we upped the number of daytime feedings from the previous month. Caroline started waking more at night and seemed to be going through a growth spurt, so we tried a technique called cluster feeding to help combat this issue.

It helped to stretch the feedings out at night, but did not eliminate them. The cluster feeding is why you see the spike in the number of daytime feedings.

Check out the page on the wake to sleep method to see how we eventually and successfully eliminated the second MOTN feeding.

We were typically ahead of the recommended curve when it came to dropping feedings. The Babywise book and all of my other research tended to recommend 1 more feeding than what we were doing.

I mention this, because it is key that you listen to your baby's cues. Caroline simply did better and ate more when we used the above schedules instead of what was "recommended", and she always gained weight perfectly, so there was no cause for concern.

Knowing when it is time to drop a feeding:
- Baby is snacking instead of taking full feeds. 

If bottle feeding, you'll see a drop in the ounces eaten; if breastfeeding, you might notice a drop in the amount of feeding time.

Where this gets tricky for breastfeeding moms, is that babies also get more efficient and effective with breastfeeding as they get older.

So, she could still be taking a full feeding, even though the nursing time has gotten shorter. You'll want to watch for other signs as well...
- Baby is disinterested. 

She might be looking around, and just more interested in other things. This happens a lot when babies learn new skills, so if your baby is doing this for a few days, it is normal.

Wait it out and see if she comes around. If it continues for a week or longer, it may be time to consider that she isn't hungry enough, and a schedule change might be in order.

- Baby pushes breast or bottle away.

This is the clear cut sign that baby doesn't want food. Don't force it.

Just try rearranging the schedule to see if she'll eat at different time intervals. Again, make sure that this is a pattern for several days before adjusting your schedule.
- Baby starts to take longer naps, and there isn't time for another feeding in the schedule. 

Sometimes a schedule change occurs because of other factors. This is completely okay. As long as your baby can handle the new schedule and isn't too hungry, she will make up for the dropped feed during the other feeding times.

Note: if she is sleeping, she is not hungry. 

An example of a change we made at the 9 month mark:

 Caroline was still nursing 4 times a day. She did great with the first morning breastfeed, but then the next 3 were getting shorter and shorter. It felt very forced, which was frustrating for Mama and baby!

She would feed for only a couple of minutes on each side and was completely disinterested in nursing. She'd literally take a few sucks and be done.

I waited it out for over a week, and then made the decision to drop to 3 feedings. Almost immediately, she started taking nice long feeds for all 3 that I offered.

I knew she was getting more food with 3 nursing sessions than she was with 4.
After our morning nursing session.
Happy Mama and happy Caroline!
9.5 months old
As a breastfeeding mama, I know that it can be a nerve wracking decision to drop a feed. Your supply is at stake (especially if you are over 30 and are getting down to fewer feeds a day).

If you are nervous about this, make sure you drink plenty of water, and you can also choose to pump during the dropped feeding time, if you feel it is necessary.

I have never pumped just because of a dropped feed, however, and my supply has never been negatively impacted.

From my research, it sounds to me that if you are going to have supply issues, it is going to happen regardless of the schedule that you keep or the number of times you pump, feed, etc.

I was very nervous to drop to 3 feedings though, since I don't pump. With each change, I worried. No supply issues ever came, even when down to just two feedings a day.


Other Posts of Interest:

8 Benefits of Keeping Baby on a Schedule (Feeding on Demand vs. Feeding on Schedule)

Knowing When to Drop a Feeding

How to Drop the Last Middle of the Night Feeding

Schedules- Info on eating habits, times, etc can be found here listed by age

Advantages of Breastfeeding on a Schedule

Handling the 3-6-9 Growth Spurts (When they happen and what to expect)

When and How to Give Solid Foods to your Baby

When to Introduce Water to Your Infant
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  1. Hi!! I have a question and am new to baby wise and hoping you could help. My daughter just turned 10 weeks today. Currently she is on a 3 hour cycle. (wake 1 hour, napping 2). She gets up a 7am and cycles all day. We dream feed at 10pm and then she wakes up at 4am. This is new for her. I just started baby wise on monday and since I've started she stopped waking up twice a night and is only waking once. before she woke up between 2-3 and now its consistently at 4. But reading your post, my daughter is showing signs to drop a feeding. she usually gets 4oz but the last 3 days have been only getting 3. And its a struggle for her to even eat that much. she is very distracted and looking around. My question is, should i drop the 4am feed? I am just worried because we already eliminated one feeding. Thanks so much!

    1. Wanted to make sure you saw my comment (it didn't go through as a reply for some reason)...

  2. Nicole,
    Couple of questions...
    How long has she been doing this?
    What's your full schedule?

    I'm guessing she might be in a leap and that it will soon pass. If it has only been a few days i might just give it more time, especially if her naps and schedule are working well right now!

  3. she's been doing this since mid afternoon wednesday. she consistently leaves 1 oz. her schedule is
    4am 4oz
    7am 4 oz
    8am nap
    10am 4oz
    11am nap
    1pm 4oz
    2pm nap
    4pm 4oz
    5pm nap
    630 4oz
    730 bedtime
    10 dream feed 4oz

    more often than not her schedule does get off by 30 minutes. it starts to get hairy around 4ish. however yesterday after i wrote to you, she all of a sudden started drinking all her bottles! this lasted until her dream feed where she has been leaving 1oz again. Also, thank you so much for replying to me!

    1. Definitely don't worry about getting off by 30 min, that is to be expected at this age! That's so great that she is drinking more again. I was going to suggest waiting this one out since it hasn't been going on long. One thing you can start doing is decreasing the dream feed or eliminating it all together and seeing what happens. I would try that before rearranging the schedule! Sooooo awesome to have such great long naps at this age! Very impressive sleeper!