Reasons for Feeding Baby Sooner than 2.5 Hours

When following a baby feeding schedule, you will have a goal to feed baby at least every 2.5 hours. But what do you do when baby needs to eat sooner? Continue reading to find out. 

mother breastfeeding her baby

A quick search on Babywise will show you there is really some controversy out there. A falsehood that seems to be spread around often is that if you are following On Becoming Babywise, you cannot feed your baby if your baby gets hungry.

Nope.

On page 115, On Becoming Babywise talks about several reasons you would feed sooner than the 2.5 hour mark. These reasons include hungry baby, low milk supply, growth spurts, medical reasons, desire to go to bed earlier, and early morning feedings. Let’s discuss each of these.

>>>Read: How To Successfully Do On Becoming Babywise

Typical Newborn Feeding Schedule

Let’s first review what a typical newborn feeding schedule will look like so we are all on the same page.

A typical newborn will eat every 2.5-3 hours in the day and then go up to five hours at night without feedings. Your newborn might eat more often than every five hours at night.

Once your baby is 5 weeks old, your newborn can go up to 7 or 8 hours at night without feedings.

You can find all of the information you need for number of feedings in a day and feeding intervals in these posts:

Young baby being held by both parents

Hungry Baby

If your baby is hungry, feed your baby. This is true no matter how long it has been since the last time your baby ate.

“…just know that hunger is always a legitimate reason to feed less than two hours.”

(On Becoming Babywise page 115, 2006)

Did you catch that quote?

Hunger is always a legitimate reason to feed baby less than two hours later.

Hunger is always a legitimate reason to feed baby less than two hours later.

Hunger is always a legitimate reason to feed baby less than two hours later.

Okay, whew, I think I got that simple point across. It seems to be a hard one for some people to understand when they decide to bash Babywise, claiming you starve a baby.

Hunger is always a legitimate reason to feed baby less than two hours later.

I am not making this up. Page 115. Last sentence of the second paragraph (2006 printing).

In the 2019 printing, On Becoming Babywise states,

A hungry baby should always be fed! Withholding food is never a way to fix a sleep problem.”

On Becoming Babywise, page 139, 2019

This is not the only time the Babywise book says to feed a hungry baby. I have compiled the quotes for anyone interested. Read Babywise Instructs Parents to Feed Baby When Hungry for all of the quotes.

So, if your baby is hungry, it is correct to feed your Babywise baby sooner than 2.5 hours. 

Look for signs of hunger. Follow baby’s hunger cues. If you are not sure, it is always wise to feed baby and see if hunger was the cause for poor sleep or a fussy baby.

>>>Read: Hunger Cues: How To Know if Baby is Hungry

Remember, do not feed newborn babies solid foods, even in a bottle. Newborns should be on breast milk or formula.

If your baby is no longer a newborn and has been cleared by your health care provider for solid foods, adding solids or finger foods can help with hunger.

There are lots of reasons a baby might be hungry; those will be discussed below.

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Low Milk Supply

If you are breastfeeding, your baby might be hungry because your milk supply is low. You can have a low milk supply for various reasons.

The first and most common for low breast milk is simply that by the end of the day, you have been running around taking care of at least one child and whatever else you have going on.

The energy and stress of the day can possibly affect your milk supply. You won’t have much breast milk. If so, your baby will need to eat more often.

I definitely needed to feed Brayden and Kaitlyn at two hour intervals in the evening hours–so around 5/5:30 and then around 7/7:30.

With McKenna, she didn’t need the food that often for whatever reason. However, for a short period, we did cluster feeding, which is feeding every two hours in the evening. See this post for more on cluster feeding Tips to Get Baby Sleeping Through the Night.

You can also have milk supply issues for other reasons. Some moms just seem to have a Milk Supply Limit. In these cases, milk production is not enough for your baby.

If you have low supply and need to boost it, you can feed more often or add in pumpings. There are also other things you can do to improve milk supply. Read this mom’s tips for increasing supply while breastfeeding here.

For some babies, they won’t necessarily need to nurse as often as you want to in order to boost supply. In those cases, I would recommend you get a good pump to get the extra stimulation in. Many hospitals will rent them out for a good price. 

Some moms find they just cannot breastfeed and need to feed baby through a bottle. There is no shame in formula feedings! As you are deciding if you want to take this path, read about tips on what to do before you give up breastfeeding from a mom who made that consideration and in the end did stop breastfeeding. You can also read the truths about bottlefeeding on this post here.

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Growth Spurts

Growth spurts are a reality. Your baby will have growth spurts often and will need to eat more often because of it. That is absolutely normal and nothing to stress about.

Growth spurts happen usually every 3-4 weeks. When that happens, feed your baby early if she needs it. When the growth spurt is over, she will go back to eating at her longer intervals.

I have written extensively on growth spurts, so see my post on Growth Spurts here.

Medical Reasons

There are a variety of medical reasons for feeding often. Some premature babies might need to be fed more often.

Even some small full-term babies might need to feed more often. Babies with jaundice need to feed more often. Babies with reflux might need to eat more often.

>>>Read: Babywise and Reflux

If your baby has a tongue tie or lip tie, she might need to eat more often until the tie is corrected. It is common for infants with a tie to need to eat more often since intake at each feeding can be lower.

Always consult with and listen to your baby’s pediatrician on these medical issues.

Don’t be afraid to feed more often if your baby has a medical issue that might require it and you feel like it would be beneficial. This will not hurt your Babywise progress long-term.

What will hurt your progress long-term is if you ignore these medical reasons for feeding your baby more often and end up with even more significant medical issues that require you to feed your baby more often for a longer period of time.

Get it taken care of and your baby will soon be able to extend the length of time between feedings. 

Dreamfeed

If you do a dreamfeed, you might feed at two hours just so you can go to bed earlier.

This will be especially true in the earlier months of feeding your baby. You may have been cluster feeding your baby and find the dreamfeed is landing just two hours after your last cluster feed.

This is okay.

Your dreamfeed is a top-off feeding to help get baby through the night longer before needing to wake up and eat. Read all about The Basics of a Dreamfeed here.

Early Morning Feedings

There are often times when a baby wakes up around 5-6 AM and is legitimately hungry and needs to eat. Then you typically start your day around 7-8 AM, depending on your typical schedule.

This is a situation when you will feed sooner than three hours just to keep your daily schedule on track. This is the situation when baby wakes at 5 AM hungry and your normal start time to the day is 7 AM. For extensive information on this scenario, see 5-6 AM “Night” Wakings. This is a time it is a good idea to feed sooner than 2.5 hours.

For help stopping these early wakings, read Early Morning Wakings: What To Do When Baby Wakes Early

Witching Hour

You might find your baby has a witching hour in the evening hours. This is when your baby just doesn’t seem like herself and is generally inconsolable. This can happen to formula fed and breastfed babies alike.

Some infants experiencing witching hour will be calmed by being held, time in a swing, or being fed.

It is okay to feed your baby if needed during witching hour.

>>>Read: How To Manage Baby’s Dreaded Witching Hour

Out-of-Ordinary Situations

There will be times you need to feed your baby more often than the schedule would typically be. These are situations that are evaluated in the context of the moment.

One example used in the Babywise book is when you are on a flight. Take off and landing can be painful for the ears for babies and adults alike. One way to help this pain is to swallow. Feeding your baby during these moments can help baby not have pain.

You might be at church or another location where you need baby to be quiet. Sometimes feeding baby will help with that.

Follow common sense guidelines. Do not be so black and white that you won’t feed baby even when the situation warrants it.

Conclusion

I know there are many of you who worry about feeding a baby every two hours in the evening. You worry it will throw-off all of the effort you have put into creating a solid schedule.

Don’t worry. I am here to rest your minds at ease and make sure you know it is okay. Not all babies will need this cluster feeding, but a lot do.

If your baby needs this, too, don’t be afraid to do so. It is perfectly normal.

There are lots of reasons to feed baby sooner than the 2.5 hour mark–and they are all legitimate.

If you find yourself feeding more often than 2.5-4 hours (depending on the age of your little one) for these reasons, that’s okay! That is part of normal life with a real baby. Do not stress it out. Your schedule and baby sleep goals will fare just fine in the long run. 

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Reader Comments and Questions

Donners said: My baby slept through the night at 9 weeks and we did cluster feeding ( 4 and then 6 pm) until she was around 4 months I think.It’s a time when milk supply is a bit low anyway so may as well let the baby build it up! She is now 9 months and sleeps like a log 7pm to 7am ( or 6:30 pm to 7am if we were too busy for long sleeps). Cluster feeding does not create a habit of 2 hour feeds, I think it just tanks them up to last longer and boosts the milk supply in the process.

snydsy33 said: I totally agree with Donners. I cluster fed both my girls, although my first DD I fed too-much, probably making her tummy hurt. But both of them slept through the night by 7-9 weeks, and consistently slept 12 hours a night by 6 months. I think tanking them up is a natural way to help them get the nutrition they need in their little bodies to make it through the night. And the sooner you can get them to STTN, the sooner their bodies get on a right schedule, which will help all their growth and development, mentally and physically. Also makes mom’s life a lot better too. The only thing I had to do differently than these books tell you is that I couldn’t do the dream feeds. If I got my girls for a DF after they had gone to bed, then they’d be up every three or four hours. That part didn’t work for me. 🙂

Jamie said: If you cluster feed, do you have them nap in between? So if I feed at 4/6/8, he would nap between 4 and 6 for sure, but what about between 6 and 8? Do they just take 2 really short naps right before bed?

Babywise Mom said: Jamie, some might nap between both, some might between just one. I don’t think it is a good idea to not nap between both. And for a baby with a 1 hour waketime, they would just nap for 1 hour–so a short nap. I would shoot for napping between 4/6, then considering between 6/8 optional based on the baby’s needs.

Austyn said: Jamie, I cluster feed my 10 week old at 4/6/8. I think I started this when he was 3 or 4 weeks old. He used to take 2 short naps, once after 4, once after 6, then bed at 8. The last couple of weeks, he’s just had a short nap after 4 and no nap between 6 and 8, which I’ve decided to use as bath time after my husband and I eat dinner. Val, my question for you is something I’ve wondering about for a week or two as he’s seemed less eager for the cluster feeds in the evening. We are currently on a 3 hour daytime schedule 7/10/1/4/6/8 (evening cluster) with a scheduled night feed at 4 am. I have no wish to drop the 4am because that’s when I will feed him in the morning before work when I go back.I think we may be ready to go to a 4 hour schedule because I have to wake him from naps more often now to eat. I’m not sure if I should stretch out the day and still cluster or try to drop the cluster first. I am afraid of disrupting his night sleep by not getting enough in the evenings. I would appreciate any guidance you can provide!

Babywise Mom said: Austyn, How long do you plan on feeding him at 4AM once you go back to work? You might have to turn that into a pumping session for you rather than a nursing–it won’t be good for him to be woken at that time unless you put him to bed around 5 in the evening. I would work on dropping the cluster feeding first. Hogg (the cluster lady) says to not do it beyond 8 weeks. I did with McKenna, but with that info, I would say drop the cluster before moving to a 4 hour schedule.

Austyn said: Thanks for your feedback. You were on spring break when I posted this, so I just experimented on my own. You anticipated you next question regarding the 4am feeding. I did drop the cluster feed first, going to a 4am/7/10/2/5/8pm, and he did just fine with one 4 hour interval. When he began to sleep through feeding times again, I went to a 3.5 hour routine, still with 6 meals for a couple of days, and then switched to a 4 hour routine with 5 meals (4a/8/12/4/8p) without a problem. It really went much smoother than I thought it would, even with a growth spurt, we were able to go back to the 4 hour easily. Thanks so much for your suggestions.How long do you think I can keep up the 4am feed without doing him a disservice? I pretty much do it like a dreamfeed and he goes right back to sleep until 7am waketime. I know I will like having that time with him in the morning, but I don’t want to cause him a problem. I go back to work in about 2.5 weeks, when he will be 15 weeks old. He’s big boy (15 lbs. at 10 weeks). If I keep this schedule, I will still be able to nurse him 3/5 meals, which is very appealing. I am not looking forward to going back :o(

Babywise Mom said: Austyn, I don’t think you can go much longer with 4 AM feeds. I think he can go maybe to 4-5 months old. At some point, even dreamfeeds start to interfere with healthy sleep as the baby gets older. I am sorry you are having a hard time 🙁 Best of luck to you.

jaclyn wilson said: Is it okay to feed at 2 hours in the evening but stretch to 3 1/2 in the morning? I have to wake my daughter up from her 1st nap most days, but since we started cluster feeding at night she is STTN much better. Is it okay to let her go that extra half hour in the morning and adjust the rest of the day accordingly? Or should I wait until she stretches out those evening feedings?Thanks!

Babywise Mom said: jaclyn, yes, that would be fine. 🙂

Christina said: I have a question regarding our 4 week old baby girl. She is a very good baby, we start her morning at 6:30 (I work full time and will be commuting with her to the sitter once my 12 week FMLA is up). Therefore, I figure I will breast feed her at 6:30, leave at 7 with her for work. Anyways, during the day she eats every 3 hours until about 4:30-5:30’ish, when she gets hungry. I have been cluster feeding at 5:30 and will try again at 7:30. Last night she went 4 hours between night feedings. Am I doing this right, or should I try a dream feed? We tried it at 2 weeks and she just woke up on her 3 hour schedule again. I am trying to aid her in sleeping longer at night, but she is only getting 6 feedings before the 7:30 cluster, so I assume she will still need to get up 2 times at night? She is about 9 lbs right now. Thanks for any advice.

Babywise Mom said: Christina, I would try a dreamfeed, too. The Baby Whisperer says the dreamfeed is superior to the cluster feeding if you can only do one, so I would shoot for that. Good luck!

Ushi said: Hi. I just found this blog while looking for a sleep solution for my baby. My baby is 13 weeks old and I’m trying to sleep train her so she sleeps through the night. Her ped suggested that we feed her at 8 then 12 am. And let her cry it out till 6am. I am on my second night of this and its really hard hearing her cry. I was wondering if I’m doing this correctly. She had cried for an hr the first night. And abt 1.5 hrs tonight. I’m wondering of I should try cluster feeding her at 4 6 and 8 as well. Maybe it will help her sleep better. Any suggestion u have will be really helpful. She was getting up every 3 hrs at night that is why I’m trying to sleep train her.

Babywise Mom said: Ushi,I would do cluster feeding like you said. I would also try a dreamfeed around 10/10:30 (but be sure to put to bed after the 8 feeding. See posts on dreamfeed for more on that). Then I would let her sleep until she wakes. I don’t know what else you are doing so far as sleep in the day and feedings in the day. Do a 2.5-3 hour feeding routine all day. Do regular naps. I would teach her to sleep on her own in the day before having her cry at night. Good luck!

Rhonda said: Val, Thanks for this post! I currently have a 3-week-old boy who is pretty much on a 2.5 hour schedule. His daytime starts at 8 am, and night starts at 8 pm. He eats at 8, 10:30, 1, 3:30, and then I lose the schedule, and just feed him when he seems hungry to try and tank him up. But this seems to get me into feeding him at 5pm, 6, 7, and possibly at 8pm, then he still wakes 2-3 times a night. Should I try going to every 2 hrs after the 3:30 feeding? So 5:30, 7:30, then bed. I’m afraid he’ll wake even more. I can’t do anything for the next few days, he’s in the growth spurt and has a cold. Poor thing! I’m feeding every 2 hrs to hope and get more sleep tonight. He’s gaining weight like a champ though, he’s gained almost 2 lbs in 3 weeks. So my milk supply is fine. Just need help with that evening schedule. My 2 girls were both BF and did wonderful, STTN around 2-3 months. B ut I’ve always had this schedule problem with the newborns.

Babywise Mom said: Rhonda, I would definitely try to get some more consistency with your afternnon/evening feedings. It will help to have more full meals and it will also mean naps will be more consistent, which will prevent overtiredness.

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