Scheduled Infant Feedings: The Promise Of Full Night's Sleep Is Dangerous

An article about training infants to eat on a strict schedule has been circulating on social media. The article was about a feeding strategy for newborns created by Drs. Lewis Jassey and Jonathan Jassey of Bellmore Merrick Pediatrics. The sibling duo doctors co-authored The Newborn Sleep Book which claims to be able to help parents train a baby to sleep through the night by refraining from “On Demand” feeding.

“When we first brought Peyton home from the hospital he would wake up every two to 2 ½ hours, and we would have to feed him two to three times during the night,” a new mother Alyssa Russomondo told Fox News. She raved about the strategy she learned. “When we were trying to get it to four hours we would try taking him for a walk in the stroller to calm him down and just distract him for a little bit.”

“Just because they’re crying doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are hungry -it’s their effective way to communicate with us,” Dr. Jonathan explained.

While it’s true that babies cry for a few reasons, including upper and lower gas, being tired, scared, bored, lonely and needing a diaper change, the schedule that the sibling doctors suggest is not considered acceptable for most babies or by most pediatricians, nurse practitioners or midwives.

The doctors claim that as long as nutritional needs are met daily, all is well. They claim you can schedule an infants feedings at more convenient times during the day, if you simply “train the hunger receptors” in the developing infant’s brain, and it will make no difference to the baby’s health. That’s not true of strict feeding schedules though, according to the Mayo Clinic.  In reality, most newborns need to be fed on demand about 12 times a day at two to three hour intervals.

While the authors of the trendy book try to teach parents to ignore hunger cues and stretch out scheduled feedings in order to “train” infants, the Mayo Clinic has informed parents to look for early signs of hunger, “such as stirring and stretching, sucking motions and lip movements.” The renowned hospital’s website continued, “Fussing and crying are later cues. The sooner you begin each feeding, the less likely you’ll need to soothe a frantic baby.”

The sibling doctors, in an attempt to sell books and a good night’s sleep overlooked genuine, regularly agreed upon pediatric science.

According to a paper in the European Journal of Public Health published in 2012 scheduled feedings have a significant and measurable negative impact on cognitive development.

It’s been two years since Time Magazine informed parents that regardless of whether a child was breast or bottle fed, “babies whose cries were rewarded with milk or formula boasted an IQ that was up to five points higher than scheduled babies by the time they were 8 years old.”

It’s been 11 years since the La Leche League International featured article by Gwen Gotch wrote, “Unrestricted breastfeeding, when compared with scheduled feedings, has several additional health advantages for mother and her newborn baby. For baby, these include greater weight gain and milk intake, lower serum bilirubin levels, and less supplementation with formula. For mother, these include: decreased incidence of sore nipples, engorgement, and decreased ovulation (with potential to increase natural child spacing).”

Psychiatrist Erik Erickson said that on demand feeding promotes a basic sense of optimism in the child as they grow into adulthood.  Psychologist Penelope Leach wrote:

“A baby’s optimal brain development depends on communications between his ’emotional brain’ and his mother’s immediate and sensitive responses. The baby expresses strong feelings, the mother instantly recognizes, responds and regulates them, comforting the baby when he is angry, soothing him when he is afraid; bringing him back on to an even keel when he is over-excited. A lot of that communication takes place around the baby’s primary need and greatest pleasure: feeding.”

Parents, don’t fall for the the promises of The Newborn Sleep Book. The immediate pay-off of a full night’s sleep is, according to medical professionals from all over the pediatric arena, not worth the long term detriments to your child. Feeding infants on demand is still, despite the claims of The Newborn Sleep Book, considered the healthiest feeding schedule for a baby.

One comment

  1. I could not agree with you more. This illusion that we can control our children through withholding food is completely irrational. If we tried to control our spouse or another adult, or even child, we would be thrown in jail. Babies will stop eating if they are not hungry. Offering food in case they are hungry is a reasonable response. I had breastfeeding issues with my son and I learned the hard way that crying means he didn’t get enough food.

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