It is perfectly fine for your baby to have a schedule with feeding intervals that vary throughout the day. Learn when this combo schedule is advantageous to use.
Most people who are drawn to the idea of having a schedule for their baby are organized people who like predictability.
They tend to be rule followers to at least some extent and follow instructions well.
The flip side of that is that they often also stress out if things do not go according to plan or seem to be “off the book.”
One of “off book” worries I often see questions for is a combo schedule.
I often see questions about feeding schedules where the mom is wondering what to do because baby sometimes isn’t hungry to eat at three hours, but other times in the day can’t go more than three hours.
Parents feel like if they have baby on a “schedule,” that means baby eats every 3 hours all day or every 2.5 hours all day.
That is not the case.
Your schedule can include various feedings times throughout the day.
What Is a Combo Schedule
A combo schedule is when your baby eats at different intervals in the day. So your baby might have a 3 hour feeding interval at one point, a 2.5 hour interval at another, and even a 3.5 hour feeding interval at another point.
Keep in mind that combination schedules are okay. No problem at all.
If there is one feeding a day where your baby needs more time between feedings, you can do 3.5 hours for that feeding and 3 hours for the rest and still get in the correct number of feedings in a day.
What Time Combinations Are Okay
You really can do any interval that makes sense for your baby so long as you are getting enough feedings in per 24 hours. If you aren’t sure how many feedings your baby should be getting, see my post Your Babywise Baby: First Year Overview.
Always remember to Let Your Schedule Serve You: You Don’t Serve Your Schedule (Don’t Stress).
You can do a combo 2.5-3 hour schedule. With my two oldest kids, when we did that combo schedule they also required one 2 hour interval in the evening so they could get enough feedings in (they were breastfed).
You can also do a combo 3-3.5 schedule. I have even done a combo 2.5-3.5 hour schedule.
When Kaitlyn was 10 months old, she was 4 hour schedule, but her last feeding came at 3.5 hours so I could get her in bed on time.
Really, any combo is totally great so long as it works for your baby.
Create your schedule to serve your baby’s needs, your family’s needs, and your needs.
So while you are creating your schedule, remember the option of a combination schedule.
When Combo Schedules Come in Handy
There are many situations when you want to use a combo schedule. Let’s discuss some common ones.
The first is hunger. Your baby might be on a 3 hour schedule, but you find that after eating a large amount in the morning at breakfast time, your baby is not hungry 3 hours later.
You can either strictly stick to a 3 hour feeding cycle and force the issue (and then have baby not eat well and be hungry sooner than 3 hours for the next interval) OR you can let your baby go 3.5 hours between those two feedings and wait for baby to be hungry enough to eat.
You might also find your baby is hungry sooner in the evening. This often happens with breastfed babies. You might be on a 3 hour schedule all day, but find your baby gets hungry at 2.5 hours in the evening.
You always feed a hungry baby.
There will be many times baby is in transition with the schedule. As your baby moves from typically eating every 2.5-3 hours in the day, baby will do a combo at times. The same will be true as baby moves to a 4 hour schedule.
You might find a combo schedule is just what you need to align your baby’s schedule with siblings. You might find if you feed just 30 minutes sooner or 30 minutes later, you can get all of your kids down for nap at the same time in the afternoon.
You might need a combo schedule to meet the needs of the family. You might need a combo in order to work around school drop-off and pick up. You might need to do a combo to work around dinner time or make bedtime smoother.
Sometimes you will find you need a combo schedule to allow for longer naps. Your baby just might be extra sleepy at one point in the day and an extra 30 minutes will really help so your baby eats well at the next feeding.
A combo schedule will also be used if you do any cluster feeding. Cluster feeding is a helpful tool to get baby sleeping through the night. Read more at How To Use Cluster Feeding to Get Baby Sleeping All Night.
As you go through your day, if you find baby needs a combo schedule, take a deep breath and relax knowing it is not only okay, but also very common. Just make sure yoru baby is set to have as many feedings as she needs each day and it will all work out.
- Understanding Baby Hunger Patterns
- How to Plan Your Perfect Babywise Schedule
- When and How to Move Baby to 4 Hour Schedule
- Tricks for Getting Baby on a Consistent Schedule
This post originally appeared on this blog February 2008