How to create a feeding schedule

Having structured mealtimes is one of the best things you can do for your family when it comes to feeding. If you’ve been reading our blogs, you will have learned what structured mealtimes are and why they are important, and how often you should feed your baby, and child. In this blog, you’ll learn how to create a feeding schedule for your child or family.

Step 1: Consider

The first step in creating a feeding schedule is to consider your child or family’s circumstances and lifestyle. Common considerations include your family structure, sleep routines, work schedules, childcare, school, sports and other activities, and current feeding routines.

Family structure

  • How old is your child (or children)?
  • Do you have children of different ages?
  • Are you breast and/or bottle-feeding?
  • Are introducing solids?
  • Does your child (or children) need help with eating?
  • Does your child (or any other family members) have a medical or health condition that needs to be considered?

Sleep routines

  • When does your child (or children) wake up?
  • When does your child (or children) go to sleep at night?
  • Does your child (or children) require a nap?
  • If your child (or children) require a nap, how many, and what time do these usually occur?
  • Does your child’s (or children’s) wake and sleep times change on certain days (e.g., weekdays versus weekends)

Work schedules

  • Do you (or any other family members) work?
  • What days and times do you (or any other family members) work?

Childcare

  • Does your child (or children) attend childcare?
  • Which days does your child (or children) attend childcare?
  • What are their drop-off and pick-up times?
  • How many mealtimes are there, and what times do these occur?
  • Does your child (or children) eat more, less, or a similar amount at childcare, compared to when they are at home?
  • When you pick up your child (or children) from childcare, are they hungry?

School

  • Does your child (or children) attend school?
  • What are their drop-off and pick-up times?
  • How many mealtimes are there, and what times do these occur?
  • Does your child (or children) eat more, less, or a similar amount at school, compared to when they are at home?
  • When you pick up your child (or children) from school, are they hungry? 

Sports and other activities

  • Does your child (or children) attend any sports or other activities?
  • Which days does your child (or children) attend these?
  • What times does your child (or children) attend these?
  • Is food provided as part of these sports or other activities?
  • Does your child (or children) need to eat before, or after the activity?

Current feeding routines  

  • When are your child and family’s normal meal and snack times?
  • Is your child (or children) often hungry?
  • When does your child (or children) seem hungriest?
  • Are there particular eating occasions when your child (or children) is often not hungry or seems uninterested in eating?
  • What is your child’s (or children’s) best meal?
  • What is your child’s (or children’s) worst meal?

Step 2: Implement

Once you’ve considered your feeding schedule, it’s time to implement it. Don’t be surprised if your new feeding schedule isn’t a roaring success on the first day – there will likely be a few bumps along the way. Your child (or children) might resist these changes initially, especially if they’re used to grazing. When implementing any new family routine, consistency is essential. Often when families find it hard to establish structured mealtimes, it’s because of a lack of consistency.  

Step 3: Test

After implementing your feeding schedule, try it out for at least two weeks. This gives your child and family the opportunity to adapt to the feeding schedule, and for it to become the “new normal”. The two-week testing period will also provide you with time to monitor how the feeding schedule is going and assess whether you need to make any adjustments.

Step 4: Adjust

Creating a feeding schedule often requires a bit of trial and error to get it “right”. Furthermore, adjustments will also need to occur as your child grows and develops, and your family’s circumstances and lifestyle change.

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