When you bring your new baby home, you already know you are in for a lot of sleepless nights. Until a baby is twelve or more pounds, they are going to need nighttime feedings to stay healthy and grow. After that weight, some will still need to get up and eat, though it might be more of a self-soothing issue than a hunger issue. You may want to have a baby feeding schedule that works best for your life, but at first, that is not really up to you. For the first six or so months, your baby is totally and fully in charge.
Most doctors will tell you that a baby feeding schedule is up to the baby. While some will recommend that you feed them at certain intervals, most babies will have to eat on demand. They know when they are hungry and when they are not. Baby’s bodies will demand food when needed, and the hunger signals shut off when food is not needed. They will not overeat as an infant. At most, you may be told that if they do not get up after a certain time that you should wake them up and feed them. You can not, however, withhold food or feed water because you want a schedule. It is not good for them.
After a while, you may notice that things work into their own rhythm without any input from you. A baby feeding schedule will emerge that you can sometimes rely on, but not always. They will get use to waking and sleeping at certain times, and you will find those time repeat. You can not count on anything though. If they are going through a growth spurt, they need to eat more often and in higher quantities and sleep more. Once the spurt is over, they will go back to the way things were before the spurt started.
A baby feeding schedule will be up to you somewhat when you start solids. Babies start eating cereal between four and six months. This is when you have some input. You can pick a time of day to start, and then two times a day when they are better at eating. They will later start simple baby foods like peas and bananas, and those can also be fed when you feel best. Most take this chance to set it up so baby is eating solids at the table at meal time with the rest of the family. Finally, you have some control over when baby needs to eat.
If you have a premature baby, things are going to be a bit different in the early days. There will be a baby feeding schedule at the NICU and at home for a short time. Preemies sleep most of the time, and the doctors will recommend they eat so many times a day, and those feedings can be scheduled because the babies usually have to be woken to eat. Once they get home, this may stick for a while, but then you will switch to the on demand feedings as anyone with a newborn would do.