Should I feed my baby on demand or should I establish a loving and flexible routine?

Many parents ask me “should I feed my baby on demand or is it better to have a flexible routine?” Maybe we can look at both and then you can decide what works for you.

If you are breastfeeding then you will demand feed anyway to begin with to encourage your milk supply for your baby’s needs. As baby settles into feeding, after about the first week you may decide that to demand feed is easier. This means you don’t have to think about feed times, you just feed him when he wakes and cries. This may be one hour after you’ve fed him or it may be three. This means you can feed him anywhere and at any time, so baby will get used to this pattern. You may find he is very settled in the day but wants to feed every hour or so at night! With demand feeding you don’t wake him to feed, so if he sleeps for a long stretch in the day you leave him to sleep.

The benefits to demand feeding means that you can just go with the flow and not worry about any routine at all.

The disadvantages of demand feeding can be: as baby gets older are that you don’t know when feeds should be, you can’t plan your day around feeds, and also baby doesn’t really know where he is regarding feeds and wake up. Also, it’s much more difficult to teach baby to self settle and sleep well.

If you are bottle feeding you can still demand feed, but you’ll probably find baby does go into a three hourly routine. This is because you know how much he’s having at each feed and he goes for longer between feeds.

What about a flexible routine? You can do this if you’re breast or bottle feeding. This means once your milk is in, and you’ve got a good supply to meet baby’s needs, you can start to gently encourage baby into a three or four hourly routine in the day time. You will also find that he starts to sleep for longer periods at night, which is what everyone wants and needs! It’s also good for baby to have good long stretches of sleep for his growth, both physical, emotional and for his brain development.

In my experience over the years, sleep produces sleep. Babies feed well when they sleep well. Tired babies don’t feed so well as I’m sure you have found.

Babies who are fed in a lovely flexible routine are certainly very settled. They sleep well and not just as babies but when they are toddlers too, and also as older children. However we all know that there are times when babies will be unsettled and restless at night. This can be due to teething, illness or just being generally unsettled.

I’ve seen many school age children who don’t sleep well at night and they struggle with school during the day. The plus to routine feeding also, is it’s easier to teach a baby to self settle and be happy in his cot awake before he goes to sleep.

However, if you’ve been demand feeding and want to change, it’s never too late! The most important thing is that baby has good naps and sleeps well.

Our Services

I also want to tell you about all the services we provide here at Rachel’s Babies.

Rachel’s Babies provides online or telephone consultations which I personally do. These can be 1 hour long, or just 30 minutes. Usually these are sleep related, although feeding often comes into it as well. I am on hand for follow ups after the initial consultation, if needed, via text or WhatsApp messages in case you are struggling to implement my advice. It’s generally best to start with a 1 hour consultation so I can get all of the information and then any follow-ups can be 30 minutes.

If we have a consultation then I’m on hand to follow up should you so need it. Also I can help you through text messages if you’re struggling to implement advice I’ve given you. I often find that one hours consultation puts things right.

I also provide daily home visits within a radius of about 100 miles from where I’m based near Exeter in Devon. These can be hourly or overnight visits. For overnight visits I will travel anywhere. It can be really beneficial to parents for me to be in their home and see first hand the situation, for example, where baby sleeps, how baby feeds etc and obviously I can then make clear suggestions for improvements.

In addition to my services, we also have a Maternity Nurse Agency with some lovely maternity nurses who are hand-picked by us based on experience, qualifications and references. We only take on maternity nurses who we believe to be of the highest calibre. These maternity nurses will come to you as required to do 24 hours, just nights or just daytime help and this can be from a few days to several months. Most of our nurses are very happy to travel overseas too. Some of our nurses will also do troubleshooting, so do get in touch with Lucy if you are needing help.

I’m also very happy to come and speak to groups on any subject relating to parenting newborns under up to five years old.

Do please get in touch with Lucy at Rachel’s Babies if you would like any help or advice.


Tel: 01460 30151.

Or visit our Contact page and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

I do hope all the above has helped.