Can I sucessfully breastfeed and have a routine/schedule?

by Pablo Picasso
YES! It is very possible!

I have successfully breastfed my kids past a year (Jacob, my 15 month old, is at this time still nursing) and have done a routine since day one. My kids have thrived. And I have thrived. I know some people are fine with feeding baby every second of every night and day for months (or years) on end, but I am not. I start to
go a bit nuts. I know I am not the only one.

Now, I am only one person and I only have two kids, but I am not alone. I have talked to hundreds of parents who have had similar success. It is very possible and it isn't that hard to do!

There are a couple things to keep in mind while doing this.
  • Keep in mind that you should feed baby whenever baby is hungry. Hunger is ALWAYS more important than the clock or whatever method you are going by (see PDF for helpful info). 
  • If baby is feeding more frequent than is expected, evaluate the situation. You may or may not need to adjust things.
  • Always monitor baby's output and general growth and wellbeing.
  • Be flexible when needed.

I want to point out that I am well aware that there are experts and organizations (i.e. LLL) out there that are very against routine feedings. Some state it will cause low milk production, poor weight gain and early weaning. I couldn't disagree more, and I am not alone (see The Baby Whisperer, Babywise, Gina Ford, The Baby Sleep Solution, Combating Myths etc).

First off, poor weight gain can happen with any parenting or feeding philosophy. From what evidence I have seen, it will not happen more often if you do a routine (assuming you are monitoring your baby's growth and output and feeding when hungry). In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it happened less on a routine. Yes, even one that encourages daily feeds every 2.5-4 hours and has your child eventually sleeping 12 hours at night (depending on age and other variables, of course). Critics say baby will starve. But I am not seeing any starving, or even hungry, babies.

Next, low milk production can also occur with any feeding philosophy. There are some people out there who will struggle with supply no matter what they do. Is it more likely to occur if you don't feed frequently enough and get enough stimulation to the breasts? Yes. But you are going to ensure that is not happening (i.e. you feed a newborn around every 2.5-3 hours and adjust for age and health, don't go too long without a feed at night with young babies, adjust your routine as necessary to accommodate growth spurts etc.).  Do I think you need to feed as frequently as critics say you do? No. Why? Because I know so many moms who do just fine feeding less frequently day and night. Like I already said, there is the occasional mom who doesn't, and she just has to adjust for that.

I can't even comprehend why people would think a routine would cause early weaning. The moms I see weaning early are usually the ones who are overwhelmed by feeding and holding their --often overtired-- baby 24 hours a day for months on end (and being told they must do this if they want to breastfeed or be a good mother), not the ones who are getting long periods of sleep at night and plenty of rest during the day.

Related Posts:
Why have a schedule/routine?
Parent-Directed Feeding (PDF)


  1. My baby and I have a routine which I definitely adjust when needed, but we all thrive (by all I mean not only me and my baby, but my other child and my husband too) and are happy, baby is growing excessively, and we all (again, ALL) have plenty of sleep. I love it.

  2. So far I love breastfeeding. Even though it making waking up at night to tend to my baby. She sleeps great at night. But my only problem is getting her to take naps. She's a little over 2 months old and doesn't seem to want to nap unless I nurse her to sleep. I've tried the pu PD but it one resulted in her being more and more frustrated. Her naps end up being only 40min long which is upsetting too

    1. jgeweiz, you can try putting her down when she is less and less asleep with breastfeeding. It will take some time, but be gentler than some methods. It is a big change for baby to go from breastfeeding to sleep to wide awake to sleep--she will most likely have a hard time with the change and may protest it. If you feel like this is something the two of you want to tackle when she is a bit older that is fine too. Yes, she may get more into a habit of it, but she's already in a pretty good habit of it right now, it seems, so either way it will be a bit of work :)

  3. Hi,
    How can I apply your sleep your E/W/S cycle to a breastfeeding baby who eats every 2 hours. My baby is 7 weeks. Is it too soon? If so, when can I start putting him on a schedul?

    1. Unknown,
      I personally think it is fine to work on a routine from day one, although it certainly isn't necessary if you don't feel up to it. I would normally be feeding a 7 week old more like every 2.5-3 hours, but if you want to do every 2 hours, you will either have shorter naps in there, or you will do a mixed up combination of the ews cycle, trying not to feed to sleep. Look at the related posts link at the bottom of the above post for more info on this.

      good luck!

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Thank you for your reply. Any tips on avoiding nipple association when night feeding? Baby falls asleep on the breast when feeding at night no matter how hard I try to wake him. I am working on the side laying breastfeeding so that I myself can get some sleep! When I feed him this way, he wakes up more frequently...every hour. I assume it's because he falls asleep at the breast sooner when Im not as attentive during side laying. Im trying to work things out here. I've gone 8 weeks without a good night's sleep, but also want to work on sleeptraining. Any ideas?
      Thanks in advance!

    4. Brandee Brown,
      A lot of the time nursing to sleep at night doesn't cause issues, but if baby is nursing really frequently and doesn't fall asleep on his own at all then it can often result in sleep issues. I would definitely not feed while lying down at night. I now it isn't fun to sit up and keep baby awake, but it makes a big difference in the long run. Harder at first, I know. If you get a comfortable chair and a good pillow to rest baby on it really helps (I love mybreastfriend pillow). And I would wait for baby to wake up completely before feeding and try to hold baby off of a feed by comforting another way at first (if possible) if it hasn't been very long since the last feed. If you work on these things the feeds at night will hopefully spread out. Even if baby falls asleep at them, if they keep extending out and are fuller feeds, I think that's the biggest goal right now.


  4. Hi Rachel,
    My baby is 8w2ds now and he is fed only one time at night. Before this time, he could get twice. But what I feel uncomfortable is that I have to pump milk after his feeding at night. Could you give me a suggestion of pumping milk all day?I'm following easy 4 routine. Thanks a lot

  5. Thai, I don't quite understand your question. Could you restate it and re-explain what pumping you are doing?

  6. Hi Rachel. I’m glad I found your blog on middle of the road sleep training with PUPD. My LO is 4 months old. He has been on e/w/s since day one following Babywise book. He has four naps currently and his schedule is as follows:
    7am 3oz ews-830 nap
    9:30 5 oz ews-1030-11 nap
    12 5 oz ews-1:30 nap
    3 5 oz ews-4-430 nap
    5:30 3 oz ews then bed time routine starts at around 645 with bath, feed 5 oz, book, lullaby then bed by 7:30
    Dream feed at 11
    Mid of the night whenever he wakes up but usually anywhere from 3:30-4:30. Occasionally 5 ( he is not sleep trained so he would wake up sometimes around 2 but I know he is not hungry because he goes back to sleep with some shushing and patting)

    Is this schedule okay or his feedings during the day should space out more? I read that a lot babies are fed every 4 hours with three naps during the day. I don’t know how to keep the amount of breastmilk with less frequent feedings as I don’t think he can finish larger amount. Also he doesn’t take long naps either so his ews cycles are going to be a little messy with longer periods between feeds. Do you have any suggestions in consolidating his feedings during the day? Or should we keep it as is for now until he dropped his mid of the night feedings? Thank you!