When they are first born, infants feed every 2 to 5 hours depending upon how big the baby is, and how much the mother’s milk has come in. Most babies eat between 6 and 10 times per day (24 hours). Unfortunately, it isn’t always very consistent. It is fairly rare for a baby to eat every three hours on the nose.
As you can imagine, this schedule can be brutal on new moms. Fortunately, once Mom and baby are comfortable breastfeeding, meaning that baby latches on and eats for a full feeding without any real trouble and without needing any real encouragement, you can start doing bottle feedings.
Many pediatricians recommend doing at least one bottle feeding per day once the infant has established good breast feeding habits. Make the most of this feeding by taking one of baby’s usual feeding times that would give mom plenty of extra sleep.
For example, if an infant normally feeds around 8:00 PM or 9:00 PM and then again at around midnight, followed by another feeding between 3:00 AM and 4:00 AM, consider doing a bottle feeding for that midnight feeding. That way, when Mom is done feeding baby in the evening, she can go to bed.
If she gets to sleep at 10:00 PM, she would normally only get 2 hours of sleep before having to breastfeed again. But, by having someone else (Dad, we’re looking at you) do the midnight feeding, she could sleep straight through until the 3:00 AM feeding. On a lucky day, maybe all the way until the 4:00 AM feeding.
Now, instead of 2 hours asleep, then awake from midnight to 1:00 AM, then two more hours of sleep (adds up to 4 interrupted hours), mom could sleep from 10:00 PM until 3:00 AM, all uninterrupted. That adds up to 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. That plus a couple of hours in the morning and a nap or two here and there, and Mom can be way less sleep deprived than she would be otherwise.
The best way to make the bottle feeding work is for baby’s mother to pump breastmilk during the day and then store that breast milk in a baby bottle in the fridge for use during the night. Formula, of course, can be used as well, but check with your pediatrician first to make sure that switching back and forth between breastmilk and formula won’t be too much for baby.
If an infant will drink breast milk from a bottle with no issues, but won’t drink formula without a lot of assistance and encouragement, take that as a sign, that baby isn’t ready for formula yet.