Last Monday we talked about how to feed your baby (bottle or breast). The second thing to consider in the area of feeding is whether you want to schedule feed or not. If you choose to bottle feed this is a no brainer, most bottle fed babies are easier to schedule feed because you know how much they are eating each feeding it is measured more scientifically.
There are two basic schools of thought in this area. One is based on the book Babywise, written by Gary Ezzo. In Babywise, the main premise is that parents should be dictating when a baby eats and sleeps in order to establish authority from the very beginning. The thought is that a baby is born needing direction and leading and it is the parents job to train the baby how to function outside the womb. There are parts of that that make sense. When I was pregnant with Jesse I liked this philosophy a lot because it gave me a plan of action where there was chaos. I was very fearful of the chaos and of the potential of having an unruly child. What ended up happening to me was that the schedule made me stressed and miserable. I was more concerned with how long Jesse was eating and when that I was not paying attention and learning to identify his needs. I think this had lasting effects on my relationship with him until this past year. I finally started listening to his cues and needs and he was 6 years old! I really wish I had not let fear drive me when he was a baby, I feel like I would have enjoyed him so much more.
But, that is just my experience. I know many, many people who have used the Babywise approach and have loved it. I have seen some great families use this approach and they have awesome kids. I will also say that I have yet to see an underweight, underfed baby from this approach. I have seen stress over schedules and babies not adhering to what the parents want but there is stress no matter what the approach. I think the key lesson I learned is that it is not for everyone but some people really like and need the structure. I will argue that I am not wholly convinced the babies need all the structure (albeit some is good) and that the approach is really for the parents. Some will argue that point and that is fine!
The other side of the coin (or the other extreme) is on demand feeding, which is feeding your baby when ever it cries (basically). I have heard some fear that on demand feeding will spoil a baby and get them used to getting whatever they want when they want it. I have learned, after three babies, you can't spoil a baby. One of the downsides, that I found to this approach, is that it is draining but some people don't mind being a slave to the feeding habits of a baby (and some will even claim you should be as a parent). The unpredictability can be hard as well.
I found that with baby number three I fell in the middle of these two approaches (I should think up a fancy name for it!). I didn't like feeding Silas every time he cried but I did feed him more often when he cried that I did with the other two. If I could do something else to soothe him I did (if he had just eaten within the hour). I didn't watch the clock as much but looked to my baby for cues of what he needed. I found he naturally fell into a 2-3 hour feeding schedule without me really trying so it worked for me. The bottom line: there is nothing inherently wrong with either side and I will venture to say that neither approach will effect the outcome of a baby's personality or their emotional well-being (although extreme Babywise babies might suffer some effects, I have not seen it, just a guess). Do what is most comfortable for you and your lifestyle and will stress you out the least.
I know some readers are chomping at the bit to disagree with me (this is a sensitive subject). Please feel free to kindly share your opinion but mainly share your experience. I think that my sister will benefit most from what you learned through experience.
Next week I will follow up the discussion of these two approaches in the areas of sleep and crying. Fun, fun!