“I read that my baby should be feeding every four hours by now, but he is hungry much sooner than that. How can I stretch out the time between feeds?”
Despite what many baby care books might lead you to believe, there is no need to try to stretch out the time between your baby’s feeds. In fact, if you do this before your baby is ready, the result could be a lower milk supply and an unhappy baby.
Here is the science…when breasts are fuller, milk production slows. When breasts are emptier, they make more milk. A baby that feeds frequently from emptier breasts receives milk with a higher fat content. Mothers often worry about evening cluster feeds when their breasts feel empty, but this is exactly what is designed to happen. Their baby is filling up on milk in order to have a good sleep later. Giving formula at this point is an obvious response in a desperately tired and worried mother, and yet it is rarely necessary from her baby’s point of view.
Women’s breasts store milk between feeds. The storage capacity is not directly related to breast size, and can vary hugely between women. Some babies need to feed frequently because their mother does not store much, and that is just the way it is. Increasing the gap between feeds for these babies can result in a dramatic decrease in milk supply and a hungry baby.
The vast majority of women can trust their babies and their bodies. There is no point in comparing yourself to your friends or measuring your baby against something in a book.
If your baby is feeding all the time and you are worried about your baby or your milk supply, please reach out for professional support. These early days are tiring and overwhelming for most mothers, and we need to make sure that you are looked after too. Be kind to yourself. You are doing an amazing job.