The times at which the baby feeds vary according to whether there are signs that the baby is hungry ( sucking sounds, hands coming to mouth, faint cries, or crying). These times vary, they are not precise and cannot be predicted. For example, feeding to feeding maybe 3 hours, then 1 hour, then 20 minutes, then 4 hours. Feeding may also take place as a ” group feeding” – several short feedings in a 3-hour period, followed by short feedings in a 3-hour period, followed by a long period without feeding. The periods between feedings are irrelevant since according to this theory parents need only watch for signs of hunger and pay no attention to how much time has elapsed.
Feeding by the clock: The timing of feeding is exactly constant, being dictated by the clock. The clock determines when and how often the baby eats, usually at fixed intervals. It is not important to watch for signs of hunger as feeding times are strictly fixed. The watch thinks for the baby and the parent, and the parent’s role is only to monitor the watch.
Parent-directed feeding: Parents monitor both the changing signs of hunger and the set feeding times. Guided by their parental judgment, parents average the hunger signs and the fixed times. With guidance from the parent, the approach will feed your baby when hungry, but the clock will provide you with cautionary limits to not feed too often or too infrequently. The benefits of parent-directed feeding are:
- A baby on breast milk, who feeds frequently – say, every hour, may not get enough nutrients. Using parental judgment, parents not only respond to signs of hunger and feed the baby, but are also alert to possible feeding problems.
- When the signs of hunger are not present, the clock serves as a guide to ensure that too little or too much time passes between feedings. It is a fail-safe system for babies who are too weak or sick and cannot cry effectively.
- When the signs of hunger are present, the clock plays a secondary role because hunger, not the clock, determines feedings.
- When parental judgment is part of the equation, parents learn to navigate the changing signs of hunger and the constant clocks to ensure the best outcome for their baby.