Why I Chose to Breastfeed My Baby on a Schedule Instead of on Demand

“I always assumed I’d exclusively breastfeed my son on demand. But once he arrived, that “on demand” part was really hard to deal with.”
save article
profile picture of Marygrace Taylor
Published June 26, 2019
mom breastfeeding her baby outside in a neighborhood
Image: Jamie Grill / Getty Images

I always assumed I’d exclusively breastfeed my son Eli “on demand,” as they say—meaning whenever he wanted, around the clock. But once he arrived, that “on demand” part was really hard to deal with. So I did the exact thing you’re not supposed to do: I started nursing my newborn on a schedule.

Whether you already have a baby or you’ve got one on the way, you’re probably familiar with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that babies be exclusively breastfed for at least the first six months of life, and on demand during the newborn phase. As many new moms learn very quickly, it’s a huge, selfless, emotionally charged commitment that you can’t fully understand until you do it.

From the second Eli was placed on my chest and my midwife asked if I’d like to try nursing him, it felt like my entire life revolved around feeding my baby. I don’t remember too much about those early days in the hospital and when we first brought him home. But I do remember that if Eli wasn’t actually attached to my boob, I was trying to interpret his cues and cries to figure out whether he needed to eat again.

The nonstop feeding was exhausting, of course. But it also made me feel anxious and completely tied down. The main thing I remember about that first month was being chained to the couch wishing I was anywhere else—all by myself. But I was too nervous to take our dog out for a walk or even sneak in a quick nap, because what if Eli needed me?

So many women describe those hazy newborn days as blissful. It certainly seemed like every new mom I knew felt that way—and they seemed to have zero problem nursing constantly. But to me, breastfeeding felt like a jail sentence. Even worse, just having those thoughts made me feel selfish and embarrassed.

Related Video

Before Eli was born I had decided I wanted to nurse him for a year. After birth I knew I still wanted to try to reach that goal—but I also knew I didn’t have it in me to whip out my breast every time my son cried. Even with a newborn, I needed some semblance of predictability. I needed to feel like a person separate from my baby. And I felt like I couldn’t have either of those things if I continued to breastfeed him at every little whimper.

So a few weeks after he was born, once my milk supply seemed well established, I decided to start feeding him on a schedule—roughly every 2 to 2.5 hours—during the day. (Nights stayed on demand, though he fell into a pattern of two overnight feedings on his own pretty quickly.) Of course, if he seemed like he really needed to eat sooner, I’d feed him. But otherwise we’d wait to nurse until it was time. If it seemed like Eli just needed soothing but wasn’t actually hungry, my husband or I would cuddle or snuggle or rock him. But I didn’t feed just for comfort. (I also wouldn’t force him to nurse just because it was time, though he never refused when I offered.)

Part of me felt like a bad mom for doing this. I didn’t know any other women who nursed by the clock, so I kept quiet about it for fear of being judged. I was also acutely aware of the fact that I was going against the recommendation of a major medical organization. But I felt like breastfeeding my way was more beneficial for Eli than not breastfeeding at all. And having an idea of when I’d need to do a feeding gave me the tiny sense of freedom I needed to feel like my life wasn’t completely falling apart.

I know my approach isn’t right for everyone. And things didn’t always work out perfectly. There were a few periods of cluster feeding where Eli wanted to get back on the boob within 15 or 20 minutes of nursing, which I powered through as best I could. (My husband tried to be supportive by reminding me that they wouldn’t last forever, though at the time it really felt never-ending.) And he’d sometimes get a little cranky shortly before it was time to eat. But in general, Eli took to nursing on a schedule just fine. He’s been a pretty content baby from the start, and has always hung around the 50th percentile for both his weight and height. Just as important: A schedule gave me the boost I needed to continue to nurse without feeling like I was just a shell of my former self.

Eli dropped his middle-of-the-night feedings on his own when he was around 3 months old. And as he got a little older and fell into a more predictable routine during the day, I moved all of our nursing sessions to after he woke up from his naps. That’s the way we still do things today: At 10 months, I nurse him when he wakes up in the morning, after his morning and afternoon naps and before bed. (He also gobbles up solids for breakfast, lunch and dinner.)

I’m starting to think about how we’ll approach weaning as we near Eli’s first birthday. I’m looking forward to being finished with breastfeeding, but we’ve settled into such a comfortable routine that I don’t feel like I need to be done nursing the day he turns one. So we’ll start slow and see how it goes.

If you told me a few weeks postpartum that this is how I’d feel today, I never would have believed it. But I’m glad I found an approach that worked for my son and for me. It’s crucial for infants to get the nutrition—and comfort—that they need to grow and thrive. But I don’t believe new moms should feel pressured to feed their babies at the expense of their own wellbeing. It’s about finding the right balance, whatever that might look like for you.

Marygrace Taylor is a health and parenting writer, former KIWI magazine editor and mom to Eli. Visit her at

Published June 2019

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

save article

Next on Your Reading List

molly baz swehl lactation cookies ad in times square
Why Was This Breastfeeding Billboard Taken Down?
By Natalie Gontcharova
mother breastfeeding infant baby
How Many Calories Do I Burn From Breastfeeding?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
Parent wearing a nursing top and holding a baby on their chest
Where to Shop for the Best Nursing Clothes
By Martina Garvey
 Kourtney Kardashian Barker on the today show Monday, September 12, 2022
Kourtney Kardashian Reveals She Drinks Her Own Breast Milk
By Wyndi Kappes
mom breastfeeding baby
Olympic Committee Will Provide Breastfeeding Athletes Hotel Rooms
By Wyndi Kappes
mother breastfeeding infant at home
How to Get a Proper Breastfeeding Latch
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
mother breastfeeding baby
Breastfeeding Let-Down 101: Everything You Should Know
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
sad mother breastfeeding baby
Is D-MER the Reason You Feel Sad While Breastfeeding?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
baby with mouth open breastfeeding
Mom's Impression of a Baby Who ‘Can’t Find the Nip’ Goes Viral
By Wyndi Kappes
mom holding baby while drinking coffee in kitchen
Can You Drink Coffee While Breastfeeding?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
The 9 Best Breast Milk Storage Bags-Hero
The 10 Best Breast Milk Storage Bags to Preserve Your Liquid Gold
By Korin Miller
mother feeing bottle to baby
Can You Mix Breast Milk and Formula?
Medically Reviewed by Loretta Cody, MD
Kelly Mi Li at Vegan Fashion Week held at California Market Center on October 9, 2023 in Los Angeles, California
Bling Empire Star Kelly Mi Li Opens Up About Breastfeeding Struggles
By Wyndi Kappes
Best Nursing Pillows-hero
The Best Nursing Pillows (Plus How to Use One)
By Kathleen Harris
entrance of disney world
Photo of Mom Breastfeeding Her Baby on Disney Ride Goes Viral
By Wyndi Kappes
a mother breast pumping milk while sitting on bed at home
Why You Might Consider Power Pumping (and How to Do It)
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
young woman pouring a glass of red wine in kitchen at home
Breastfeeding & Alcohol: Is It Safe to Drink?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
closeup of baby breastfeeding
Are There Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
Cluster Feeding: Everything You Need to Know
Cluster Feeding: Everything You Need to Know
Medically Reviewed by Lauren Crosby, MD
black mother breastfeeding baby at home
Black Women on Finding Joy in Breastfeeding
By Ashley Simpo
Article removed.
Article removed.
Name added. View Your List