I tend to gravitate towards schedules. I love to have an idea of where I came from and where I’m headed. I often joke that I prefer a scheduled purpose for otherwise unscheduled time.

Having a newborn at home intensifies my desire to schedule, hence why having a baby sleep schedule is so important. We develop routines that work and plan our days accordingly. We have a framework for consistent daytime feedings that help wake up our sleepy newborn and encourage him to eat often.

Yet, for as routine-oriented as I am, I’ve learned the art of flexible scheduling. My babies don’t know how to look at a clock and wait patiently until their next meal. Similarly, they don’t need to feed constantly through the day.

Parent-directed feeding works for us.

Why Choose Parent-Directed Feeding

Simply put, parent-directed feeding (PDF) combines the aspects of scheduled feedings with a mother’s intuition to look for her child’s hunger cues. It bridges the gap between hyper-scheduled and attachment parenting.

PDF gives flexibility in the midst of a schedule. It assumes parents have a sense of when their baby’s feedings will occur but takes away the rigidity associated with a regimented feeding schedule. It allows you to meet your baby’s needs at any time because hunger cues (sucking sounds, hands in the mouth, or crying) trump the clock.

I chose PDF because it provides a framework of balance. It’s a feeding method that takes into account my intuition as a parent as well as data from baby and the clock. It really is the best of both worlds.

How Parent-Directed Feeding Works

On Becoming Babywise describes PDF as a “proactive style of parenting.”

I’ve learned that my time as a parent is most fulfilling when I make an effort to be proactive. By flexibly planning our days, I find my children have more enjoyable experiences and I am content knowing we’re spending quality time together.

With a newborn in tow, being proactive is a must.

Based on baby’s first feeding of the day, map out a tentative schedule of feedings. As your newborn begins to fuss, look at the clock, check the schedule, and look for hunger cues. Even if, according to your daily plan, it’s not quite time for a feeding yet watch your baby closely. If he’s consistently exhibiting hunger cues, feed him.

With PDF, a hungry baby is a baby that gets fed.

With PDF you’re free to feed your baby more often during typical growth spurts (typically weeks 3 & 6 as well as months 3, 6, & 9). Do remember to continue using the clock as a guidepost, determining if baby is fussing only to fulfill the need to suck.

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How Parent-Directed Feeding Benefits our Family

As a breastfeeding Mama, the task of keeping my newborn full rests solely on my shoulders. Luckily, PDF provides a framework for our family and gives my husband a greater sense of what baby might need and how to anticipate those needs. It involves my husband more fully in what was once only my responsibility.

PDF allows me to schedule outings with my older children while having a good idea of when we’ll need to slow down and feed baby. It takes into account that some days our schedule will vary based on baby’s hunger but, more often than not, baby will begin to align his hunger patterns into our consistent schedule.

With PDF I rest assured that my baby is being fed when hungry instead of everytime he whimpers or only when the clock strikes feeding time. These consistent feedings work to build a routine that leads baby to eat enough during the day to be ready to establish nighttime sleep. For my family, this is a win-win situation.


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Jess Wartinger

Jess Wartinger resides in rural New York with her husband and five children. Formerly an early elementary teacher, Jess currently spends her time loving her kids and holding down the fort at home.


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