Should You Only Feed The Baby Every 4 Hours?
I am sure you have heard this before: “If You Feed Your Baby Every 4 Hours, They Will Learn How To Sleep Better.”
This comes from the idea that babies only wake up due to hunger and making sure they are ‘not just feeding for comfort’, will make them sleep better.
There are a couple of reasons why people might think why this would work is
The baby is feeding for comfort, and this is unnecessary.
The baby must be taught to only feed when they are actually hungry.
If the baby is actually waking up hungry, then feeding them less isn’t simply going to work. They will initially just cry for the whole time until they get fed. (Yes this will stop at some point, they will give up on crying – they will give up letting you know their needs). When it comes to feeding your baby, they are going to be exhausted from crying, and they might not even finish their feed. They will ‘crash out’, their cortisol levels (stress hormone) will be very high and they will most probably struggle to stay asleep past their first sleep cycle.
If they not hungry and feeding for comfort, then we will need to figure out other ways to comfort them, because the need for comfort isn’t just going to go away if we start feeding them every 4 hours.
Yes, you could ignore their need, but that might not be such a good idea later on. This is why:
Some babies have a very small appetite and if you feed them less often, you risk them not being able to get enough calories during a 24h period. You are risking them getting dehydrated and getting sick very quickly.
If the baby is bottle-fed this might stretch their tummies, which might impact their appetite regulations later on.
If the baby is breastfed, this strategy is risky because it assumes that:
The breast always makes the same amount of milk each time, which they DON’T.
You can control how much milk a baby drinks in one feed, which you CAN’T.
The mother can store larger amounts of milk necessary for less frequent feeds, which is not always possible.
To summarise this, babies feed frequently for many reasons.
Just because they might settle better after the feed doesn’t mean that hunger was why it was appropriate to feed them. Feeding and hunger are not always the same thing. We’ve come to think about this with an adult mentality of equating comfort-feeding with over-eating. But while eating too much food isn’t a good idea, it’s not really a principle that can be applied to long breastfed infants, as there are many complex mechanisms to regulate and control milk intake and appetite in a breastfed baby.
It is more possible to over-feed a formula-fed baby, but as long as you keep an eye on the total daily volume, you still don’t need to worry about it too much.
This theory is really old fashioned, so please feed your baby if they hungry, don’t let them wait for 4 hours. You can still keep you baby in a lovely relaxed routine without too much interruption to their natural needs. If you stuck or confused, book a free call with me, I will surely help you to work out the right routine for your baby.
references: Lets talk about your new family’s sleep, Lindsey Hookway, 2020
So To Answer Your Question Is NO, Your Will Not Necessarily Teach Your Baby To Sleep Better, If You Feed Them Every 4 Hours, This Will Not Solve Your Baby’s Sleep Problems.
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