Schedules for Breastfeeding and Formula-Fed Babies

breastfeeding baby sleepIsn’t it confusing sometimes whether you should feed your baby on demand or put her on a schedule? As many things with parenting, everyone has their two cents and opinion and your mind spins with the possibilities. This article will talk about schedules for breastfeeding and formula-feeding babies.

Rigid schedules for breastfeeding babies? What about formula-feeding babies?

The main thing about schedules for breastfeeding or formula-feeding babies is that I want to tell you today that a schedule is only as rigid as you make it. Just because you set your alarm for 6:30 a.m. does not mean you don’t hit snooze 2 3 a few times does it? Just because you tell your friend you want to meet for lunch at 12 doesn’t mean you can’t call her and tell her you’re starving and ask if you can meet at 11:45, instead, right? So, the first thing about schedules for any baby, not just breastfeeding babies, is that you do not have to be married to the clock to the point you are running a boot camp.

How rigid you make your schedule generally depends on your particular personality. I am, personally, a Type-A personality (INTJ for you Myers Briggs people, except I am sometimes an “E” oddly enough). A Type-A personality is generally much more conscious of the time on the clock and, being an INTJ, I generally need to know what time it is at all times (generally you would wear a watch, but my cell phone now does the job just fine, now). Basically, I am a planner. I like to know roughly what I am doing every day and this includes on vacation (I’m sure, on vacation, my mother-in-law thought it was crazy to think about dinner when we just had lunch LOL). I honestly can’t help it.

So, when I birthed a highly unpredictable, inconsistent baby, this essentially drove me a little crazy. BUT, he was also unable to get on a schedule until he was older (past 7 months, in fact!). I just had to deal and like many things you imagine go differently in your head before you actually have a baby, I had to adjust my thinking.

Nope, he didn’t get hungry at the same times every day.
Nope, he didn’t wake up at the same times every day. EVER.
Nope, he couldn’t go 3 hours between breastfeeding sessions at a young age, like the books told me he could, and he NEVER got to 4 hours. EVER. (He can barely do it now and I suspect it’s a blood sugar thing.)

Yet, I still had a “schedule” which I now call a “routine” of feeding him every X hours based on his age and abilities as well as sleep after Y hours, based on his behavior / sleepy cues, age, and sensitivity to over-tiredness (which got better as he got older). That doesn’t mean that if he was hungry sooner I would make him wait, or force-feed him if he wasn’t hungry until later (he rarely refused breastfeeding anyway!).

As your baby grows older, he will generally become more predictable (if he didn’t start out that way) as his brain and nervous system mature and sleep organizes, even if it’s never identical to the day before. We, eventually, did get to a true by-the-clock schedule. Keep in mind that I did have to modify my own natural tendency and do what worked best for my baby. And, some babies actually function a lot better on a more predictable routine and schedule, even if your natural tendency is to “go with the flow.” Some babies are SO easy-going that they won’t cry when they get hungry! And, if you don’t have a rough schedule, you could actually be skipping feedings, when you shouldn’t. Rare, but true. Slow to adapt babies generally enjoy more predictability and many will thrive on the sometimes elusive eat-play-sleep routine from a very young age.

Feed on demand or on a schedule?

There is not just one answer here to the question of whether you breastfeed / formula-feed on demand or feed on schedule. I fed on demand for quite awhile, because it was what worked best for my son and made the most sense to me, at the time. It’s not like he could go into the pantry and get a snack anytime he wanted. To this day, he eats more frequent, smaller meals. He has a very fast metabolism and he is very high energy.

HOWEVER, breastfeeding a baby every two hours during the day past the newborn phase is not always a good idea. I have had clients with babies who have not gained enough weight, because if you feed more frequently, your baby may not be getting the richer, higher calorie, and fattier hindmilk. For those parents, the answer was to start spacing out feedings so their baby would take a fuller feeding and get that hindmilk. This brings me to my next point:

Just because your baby hasn’t gotten on a schedule on his own, does not mean he can’t.

When it comes to sleep, just like waiting too long to put your baby down can lead to short naps when she’s younger, putting her down too soon when she’s younger can result in short naps, too! Confusing, I know.

The bottom line is that all babies and families have different needs and it’s okay if you don’t know THE answer for you, yet. Take some time to experiment with your baby’s routine and schedule. There is a lot related to parenting that is “learn as you go” and I don’t think schedules for your breastfeeding or formula-feeding baby are any different. Oh, and just when you figure it out, they change anyway! :D

Because I was a breastfeeding mom, all of our sample sleep and feeding schedules are appropriate for both breastfeeding and formula-feeding parents (and combination). These are just guidelines and designed to give you ideas to make your own schedule, so please review them and post your own for the thousands of visitors that frequent this site.

If you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to download our FREE guide, 7 Common Napping Mistakes, or explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 40 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about!

Did you have a schedule for your breast-fed baby?

Baby Sleep and Breastfeeding Series: Part 4

Baby Sleep and BreastfeedingWelcome to part 4, the final part, of my Baby Sleep and Breastfeeding Series! If you are just joining us, you might want to start at part 1, where I discuss reasons why breastfeeding moms sometimes struggle with sleep. Today, I’ll go over options for breastfeeding moms when it comes to “sleep training coaching” or as I actually prefer to say “helping your baby learn to fall asleep unassisted” (who really wants to think of “training” your baby?).

How breastfeeding is different than formula-feeding

There are a few things that breastfeeding families should keep in mind when helping their babies learn to sleep unassisted, but in general, I do NOT change my recommendations THAT much from formula-feeding families and here’s why:

  • Babies become dependent on bottles and pacifiers just as much as breastfeeding mom. DO NOT wean to try to fix sleep problems. They might not go away.
  • Breastfeeding moms need sleep too.

The few things you need to keep in mind about breastfeeding are:

  • Breastfeeding is about more than just food. If you are reducing the “touch time” at night because you are currently nursing very frequently at night and wish to change that, make sure you compensate during the day with more breastfeeding and touch time. Babies thrive most on a lot of touch time and by taking away some of that at night, you want to reassure your baby even more during the day.
  • You will likely need to feed your baby more often at night and for longer (age-wise) than formula-feeding moms, because breast milk digests faster than formula. This does depend on the baby, too, though. I have seen parents with breastfeeding babies sleeping all night at 8 weeks and other formula-feeding moms still feeding twice at night at 7 months.
  • For most, the rewarding feeling and bond are worth the sometimes extra effort. Breastfeeding is not for everyone, but many moms (including me) feel the extra feedings or nursing sessions are worth it.

Sleep Training Options for Breastfeeding Families

To be quite blunt, I don’t know why a line is drawn between breastfeeding and formula-feeding moms when it comes to sleep coaching options. The same options I give to formula-feeding moms I give breastfeeding moms. I *was* a breastfeeding mom and I’ve been there. The guilt you get from reading some of the articles out there is over-whelming. Just because you are breastfeeding does not mean you have to endure endless sleep deprivation and be a human pacifier once it’s longer than is comfortable.

Co-sleeping is a common solution for breastfeeding mothers due to the convenience and for awhile it was a MUST in our house. I was indeed a pacifier and that was not a problem…for awhile. My son simply would NOT take anything else, but looking back, even if he had, I would have just been up 10 times replacing a (real) pacifier, anyway. I get many parents with that problem to this site, too.

No cry sleep coaching methods are the first place to start when you are attempting to help your baby learn to sleep. It is the place I urge all families to start, regardless of how a baby is fed. Until you know how your baby will react to changes, you really don’t know what is going to work in the long run. Once you see progress or lack of progress, you can modify your plan. The first step is MAKING A PLAN.

What about Cry It Out?

There is a prominent website that has an article saying “Sleep Training is NOT for Breast Feeding Mothers”. My biggest beef with this is the fact that some moms will eventually get this out of that statement:

If you can’t really hack the sleep deprivation, then maybe you shouldn’t breast feed (anymore).

Countless women will wean simply to try to “fix” sleep problems and honestly, that makes me sad. For some families, sleep deprivation will drive you to the unthinkable and when you have certain segments of society giving you an extreme view that you either have to withstand 2-3 years of sleep deprivation or scar your child for life, it becomes an impossible situation. Please just know there is A LOT in between sleep deprivation and don’t-go-in-until-dawn-hard-core-sleep-training-you-will-sleep-or-else. It is not cut and dry and you CAN find a solution for your family, even when you are practicing attachment parenting, for example.

The first mistake people make is they call any form of helping your baby to learn to self-sooth “sleep training”. I recently had a family whose baby was waking often for a pacifier and I recommended not to use the pacifier anymore and you know what? The mom told me that she thinks her and her husband were more dependent on it than the baby, because their baby started sleeping just fine without it in a few days without much fuss! Sometimes you just have to try to make a change. Success like that, of course, highly depends on the baby’s temperament and how adaptable she is.

Does cry it out cause long-term damage? It is my opinion that it does not. What causes long-term damage is when parents routinely and systematically neglect their child. Relationships are complex and if your baby’s needs are not met day and night, that will surely cause damage. But, when needs turn into wants that affect the entire family’s sleep, it is my opinion that a little crying for a few nights does not cause any lasting harm, breastfeeding or not. I think Kia’s comment on another one of my articles sums it up nicely that we all need to find our own path and to take “studies” on cry it out with a grain of salt. Just be responsible and always remember that you know your own child and situation best.

Share your sleep training while breastfeeding story


Breastfeeding and Baby Sleep Training: Can They Really Go Together?

Breast Milk Storage Capacity: What It Is and How To Measure It

Baby Sleep and Breastfeeding Series: Part 3

Baby Sleep and BreastfeedingWelcome to part 3 of my Baby Sleep and Breastfeeding Series! If you are just joining us, you might want to start at part 1, where I discuss reasons why breastfeeding moms sometimes struggle with sleep. Today, I’ll go over the way mom’s diet or medication might affect baby’s sleep.

Breastfeeding Mom’s Diet

In general, breastfeeding moms do not need to limit their diet. Most babies will not be sensitive to anything in your diet and some sources even say one glass of wine or alcohol in small quantities is OK. I am a nervous mom, so I really did not drink when I was breastfeeding, but some do say it’s okay. What is okay for one mom to eat may not be right for you and your baby, so there really isn’t a list of regular foods that breastfeeding moms have to stay away from, including “gassy foods.” Breast milk is made up of what is in your blood, not what you eat.

The AAP does recommend to limit caffeine, but you can drink it. Basically, consume anything in moderation. No throwing back shots or drinking five cups of coffee (limit to 1 maybe 2 cups per day). Even if you are drinking caffeine in moderation, if your baby is unusually fussy or difficult to settle for sleep, try cutting back (or out) caffeine to rule it out as a culprit. I gave up caffeine in pregnancy (the first time, not the second) and didn’t start drinking it until I went back to work and just couldn’t keep up with my son’s sleep problems and work (this was around 8-10 weeks). So, caffeine most definitely was not the source of our sleep problems. I do know that! One thing to keep in mind is that newborns *are* fussy for the first 6-8 weeks and just when you think about cutting out dairy and all kinds of things in your diet (like I considered but thankfully didn’t do because I love cheese!), their fussiness starts to go away, so be patient.

All in all, your diet has little influence on your breast milk and your breastfeeding baby will get the nutrition she needs. So, just when you think that spicy food affected your baby’s sleep, keep in mind that there are areas in the world where spicy food is the daily norm and they breastfeed just fine. Please read more about the effect of mom’s diet on breast milk to put your mind at ease. Having said that, it’s important to eat enough calories to keep up your milk supply, so going on a diet while nursing is not advisable and that includes taking diet pills. Breastfeeding usually burns more calories and actually makes it easier to lose weight (though not for everyone) and it may take up to a year to lose all that baby weight, but your baby’s health will be well worth it.

Breastfeeding Mom’s Medication

If you’re a breastfeeding mom, you do have to be careful about some medications you might take. Always talk to your doctor about the medication he wants to prescribe and make sure you remind him that you are breastfeeding. The APP does have a large list of approved drugs for breastfeeding and KellyMom has a more user friendly list of approved medication here.

Some cold medications are not advised when you are breastfeeding. Sudafed and Actifed are okay to take as well as some allergy medications such as Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra, and Benadryl. Keep in mind any cold or allergy medication can affect your milk supply, so if you notice a dip, once you stop using it, your milk supply should go back up. Advil and Tylenol are both deemed as safe for you to take without an effect on your milk supply. This is different than when you are pregnant and should NOT take Advil. You can also review natural cold remedies that might help without adding to your stress or worry.

Anti-anxiety and anti-depressants have not been proven to cause a problem in a nursing infant, but the AAP puts them on a list of “Unknown, but could be of concern.” You should also make sure you review the list of medication with significant effects on infants, such as aspirin.

Any particular medication may or may not cause any sleep issues (none specifically that I know of — remember, I am not a doctor), and if you need medication for any given problem, I’d recommend working around it rather than trying to stop your medication. If medication is temporary, always keep in mind that you can “pump and dump.” I know of one mom who weaned at around 8 weeks because she had to take a certain unsafe medication for a week or two. She later realized she could have pumped and given her baby formula for a couple of weeks and then gone back to breastfeeding, so I try to remind people that weaning to fix a temporary problem is unnecessary and we can work around it. If you need ongoing medication, don’t assume your sleep struggles are due to the medication and definitely talk to your doctor about it.

Whether it’s diet or medication, there are many things breastfeeding moms have to worry about. When there are so many variables, it’s easy to blame breastfeeding and wonder whether if you stopped breastfeeding if all your sleep troubles would disappear. My mother-in-law was convinced that would have been true for me, but the pros definitely outweighed the cons and given I get just as many bottle-feeding moms to the site, I’m sure that, once again, all babies are different. Don’t wean. I breastfed for a year with both boys and we can work on the sleep troubles!

In the last part in the series, explore your sleep training options while breastfeeding: Baby Sleep and Breastfeeding Series: Part 4.

Share your experience with medication or diet while breastfeeding



Breastfeeding and Baby Sleep Training: Can They Really Go Together?

Breast Milk Storage Capacity: What It Is and How To Measure It

Baby Sleep and Breastfeeding Series: Part 2

Baby Sleep and BreastfeedingWelcome to part 2 of my Baby Sleep and Breastfeeding Series! If you are just joining us, you might want to start at part 1, where I discuss reasons why breastfeeding moms sometimes struggle with sleep. Today, I’ll go over the number of times you should expect to breastfeed at night at different ages, how teething might affect breastfeeding moms, and discuss weaning.

Night Feedings

One of the more important things I would like to stress in this series is that when some websites or even some doctors talk about when a baby can sleep through the night without a feeding, you can’t really put breastfeeding babies into the same camp as formula-fed babies. This only has to do with one thing and that’s the fact that breast milk digests faster than formula.

As I’ve said several times, there are adults who can’t go 12 hours without eating, so I certainly don’t expect all babies to be able to go all night without a feeding all at the same age or weight. I try to be realistic and what makes the most sense to me is that all babies react differently to being hungry and it’s a developmental milestone for your inner clock to sleep all night without feedings. If you ask a variety of different pediatricians when a baby can go all night without a feeding, the answer will vary a lot. That tells me that there are no hard and fast rules that you can apply to all babies.

Formula-fed babies are more likely to start sleeping all night without a feeding, but there are breast-fed babies who do it early, too, just like there are formula-fed babies who won’t. Some of us are just lucky or unlucky, depending on how you look at it (some working moms enjoy the night snuggles, for example).

Breastfeeding moms can expect the following night-feedings, on average:

• Newborns will breastfeed every 2-3 hours in the early days and this is also when your milk supply is established. Newborns sleep more than anything in the beginning, but that changes quickly.

• When your baby is 3-4 months old, she will probably still be breastfeeding at night 2-3 times per night and sleeping 10-12 hours, but remember that sleep does change around 4 months old.

• When your baby is 5-7 months old, he will begin to move to 2 feedings per night fairly regularly and still sleeping 11-12 hours, typically.

• An 8-9 month old will usually transition to just one feeding per night and sleep 11-12 hours at night.

• At 10-12 months, many babies will be able to go all night without a feeding, but some will still need one through a year or beyond.

I was one of the (un)fortunate ones that had to feed at night for a full year. It was hard getting up even once a night for that long, but thankfully (and sadly at the same time), it goes very fast and it’s a relatively short time in our lives.


Teething babies often want to breastfeed more often because it feels good on their gums. Often, this can be difficult because if your baby is older and eating solids, they commonly will stop eating solids almost all together. It can be frustrating (but she just ate this yesterday! what happened?) and they will offset the lack of solids with more breastfeeding. This can mean more night-feedings and more breastfeeding during the day. So, breastfeeding moms have to be prepared for more breastfeeding during growth spurts as well as the height of teething episodes. It’s good to come up with a strategy on how to handle teething sleep problems.


When to night-wean and when to wean all together is a highly personal choice and I have no strong recommendations one way or another. I do know it’s recommended to breastfeed for at least the first year of life, but any amount of breast milk is beneficial for your baby, so we all must do what feels right for our families. While breastfeeding can be a very bonding experience for most of us, for some it’s not, or even if it is, some moms feel a certain level of “tied down” needing to be home at a certain time or making sure you have somewhere to pump, if you’re not. Although I pumped a lot, being a working mom, I tried with all my might not to pump more than I had to. :D

Some breastfeeding moms find that letting Dad or another caretaker give a bottle during the night can help her get more sleep. Imagine if the breastfeeding mom goes to sleep at 10, baby wakes at 2 a.m. and Dad gives a bottle, and the baby doesn’t wake again until 5 a.m. That’s 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep for Mom! A good strategy. Keep in mind in the early days, this can affect your milk supply and if you were to do this every night, it will affect your supply at that time of the night, which may or may not be okay with you. Doing it one night, the most that might happen is you get engorged (which can lead to other complications if done too often) but after weeks of sleep deprivation, a good night’s sleep might be just what the doctor ordered and could be worth it!

Another strategy is to have Dad (or other caretaker) get up, change your baby’s diaper, and takes the baby to Mom. If Mom has mastered the side-lying breastfeeeding position, this can give Mom a much-needed break and disrupts her sleep the least.

In the next part in the series, explore how Mom’s diet and medication may impact your baby’s sleep: Baby Sleep and Breastfeeding Series: Part 3.

Share your tips about breastfeeding, teething, night-feedings and weaning!


Breastfeeding and Baby Sleep Training: Can They Really Go Together?

Breast Milk Storage Capacity: What It Is and How To Measure It

Baby Sleep and Breastfeeding Series: Part 1

Baby Sleep and BreastfeedingBreastfeeding moms are very loving and caring moms! And, so are formula feeding moms! Although I breastfed both my boys for their first year, I am also a firm believer in respecting a parent’s choice for how they choose to feed their baby, so I welcome all to my Baby Sleep and Breastfeeding Series! This series is going to discuss baby sleep and how it relates to breastfeeding, and not discuss anything to do with whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding or formula feeding is better, worse or indifferent. I try to keep this a judgment-free place and the way you feed your baby is a very personal choice and sometimes not a choice at all, for some. The goal of this series will tackle things like how breastfeeding relates to sleep, whether you need to co-sleep to succeed, how often you can expect to feed your baby at night, how your diet may affect sleep, and what methods of sleep training are open to you. So, let’s get started!

Does breastfeeding cause sleep problems? Should you wean?

I gave away this answer in my first paragraph that you CAN have a baby who sleeps and breastfeed, successfully. I did it for 12-13 months with both boys and successfully improved their sleep in the process. I did give them one night-feeding with both boys until they were one year, but many breastfeeding moms can night-wean before that. My boys were just slow to be able to go 12 hours without a feeding, even though I did try…at least with the first. I sort of just accepted it with the second having already gone through it once before.

My story might not be enough to convince you, though, so I will also tell you that I get a lot parents who have to give a bottle numerous times a night or replace a pacifier upwards of 10 times a night, too. I do NOT just get breastfeeding moms to this site and although my mother-in-law may have THOUGHT my son’s sleep problems were due to my breastfeeding (she thought he was just hungry every night), it wasn’t. He proved her wrong eventually when he was eating solids and we still had problems. :D

Having said all of this, whether you wean or not is a very personal decision, but it does make me sad when moms wean simply because they hope it will improve their baby’s sleep. It simply doesn’t always work that way.

The human pacifier or use a pacifier?

If you are breastfeeding more than 2-3 times per night at 3 months or more than twice after 4-5 months, then you have become a human pacifier. Some people believe this is 100% what we should do as moms and are fine with it. I became a pacifier, too, and for awhile it was fine. Later on, it wasn’t…for me. These are all personal choices.

When your baby is first born, you should hold off using a real pacifier until your milk supply is fully established because your baby suckling stimulates milk production, so typically waiting 4-8 weeks is preferable. Just keep in mind what I said that using a pacifier does not guarantee your sleep won’t be interrupted because many people become “paci police” replacing it numerous times a night. Depending on the age of the baby, you can try to throw several into the crib and your baby might learn to replace it, but many babies even when they can replace it, don’t.

Neither of my boys had a pacifier (besides me when they were very young). My first simply would not take one even though several people tried very hard to give one to him and to this day inanimate items aren’t a good enough replacement for human contact. He did take to a lovey very well and still sleeps with it to this day. He never sucked his thumb, either. Because I enjoyed the fact I didn’t have to break a pacifier or thumb-sucking habit with my first, I purposely skipped the pacifier with my second and introduced the same lovey. He never sucked his thumb, either. Both played with finger sucking for a very short time, but it never took, thankfully. Maybe I just got lucky. I’d make sure I breastfed often during the day and give lots of affection. I can imagine we had more fussy moments in the car or out in public without a pacifier, but we made it through.

Pacifiers can make good solutions and they are especially good for babies with strong sucking needs. As long as the pacifier has not become a problem more than a solution, it is not a problem to use them.

Do you have to co-sleep to succeed in breastfeeding and get some sleep?

If you’ve been reading this site for awhile, you know that co-sleeping did not work for me, so my short answer is no you don’t have to co-sleep to succeed in breastfeeding and get some sleep. In the early days, it can be easier, though. Again, this is a personal choice. I have helped many breastfeeding families successfully help their baby learn to sleep and continue breastfeeding, so I urge any family to try, if that’s what you want for your family. It might not be easy, but with determination, we can solve your sleep problems without weaning.

In the next part of this series, explore night feedings, teething, and weaning: Baby Sleep and Breastfeeding Series: Part 2.

What have been your challenges as a breastfeeding family?


Breastfeeding and Baby Sleep Training: Can They Really Go Together?

Breast Milk Storage Capacity: What It Is and How To Measure It