If you haven’t already heard the phrase “feed on cue,” I’m guessing you probably haven’t yet welcomed your little one. You will definitely hear this phrase spoken by healthcare providers almost immediately after your baby is born! I personally speak this phrase at least 100 times a week when working with parents of newborns and infants! It doesn't matter if you’re a breastfeeding or bottle-feeding family. Feeding your baby “on cue” is how you get your baby to take the more efficient, effective feedings. In return, this helps your baby get better quality sleep between feedings, which leads to more nighttime sleep.
Why? Because better quality sleep between feedings leads to better quality feedings! As a Registered Nurse and Lactation Consultant, it’s my passion to help parents understand how feedings affect sleep, and how sleep affects feedings. In my new book, Baby Settler: It’s not just about sleep, I go into detail about how exactly to do this. But here, I want to share some quick, helpful tips to get you started!
- Look for early feeding cues. It’s always easier to feed your baby when they’re displaying early feeding cues. If you’re breastfeeding, this is extremely important. These cues can include waking from sleep, your baby turning their head side to side, bringing hands to their mouth, sticking their tongue out, or clenched fists. If your baby becomes agitated (or hangry), it’s often difficult to get them to settle for a feeding (especially for breastfeeding moms). How can you be sure you’re catching those early feeding cues?
When you’re following the feed, wake, sleep, feed cycle, you can feel confident that you’re following their feeding cues by offering feedings at the right time. Most babies are hungry when they wake from sleep during the first three months of their life.
- Don’t try to delay feeding your baby to sync up with a “scheduled” time. This will probably lead to you feeding your baby at the end of a wake window (which does not follow the feed, wake, sleep, feed cycle). When you are feeding your baby at the end of a wake window, your baby is likely to fall asleep prior to taking a “full” feeding. Then, your baby will fall asleep (possibly before a “full” feeding has happened) and wake up sooner. Attention: You CAN still have a routine! I’m VERY much a “planner” type Mama, and having a routine has always been very important to me. (*Get my free Recommended routine)
- Learn the art of Paced Bottle Feeding. It’ll help you offer quality feedings to your baby! Quality feeds lead to extended sleep. However, you want to avoid forcing your baby to take a set volume each feeding. Babies’ appetites change throughout the day, and you’ll notice your baby will take different volumes at different feedings when you’re offering bottle feedings. If you are forcing your baby to take a set volume amount at each feeding, it could be causing tummy troubles for your little one! When babies are given a bottle without using a paced bottle-feeding technique, they might unintentionally consume a larger volume than intended because they were unable to control the flow rate out of the bottle. This can lead to reflux, which can cause sleep disturbances for your baby.
Remember, there is no magic trick to helping your baby sleep. Good, extended sleep starts with an effective feed. They work together! I hope this information helps you feel empowered to set your little one up for quality feedings (and sleep!). If you’re looking for more information about how to get quality feedings and extended sleep (without using the Cry It Out Method), you can access my Free Guide: Sleep Train without Crying it Out (you or your baby!).
Hillary Sadler is a seasoned Mama and the founder of Baby Settler. She’s also an Author, Registered Nurse and International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant. It’s her passion to help new and expecting parents thrive (not just survive!). Take her Free Prepare for Baby Mini Course