It can be challenging to understand the needs of your little one, especially when it comes to the basic human need of feeding. The most important thing to remember is to pay attention to your newborn’s needs, so many parents and experts recommend feeding on-demand.
How often should I feed my newborn?
A general rule of thumb is that newborns should feed at least 8 times a day. However, just like for grown-ups, the appetites of newborns can vary, as some newborns might yearn for a meal just 90 minutes or so after their last, while others may wait up to three hours before requesting another feeding. The important thing is just to make sure that Baby gets plenty of milk to help them grow big and strong. This also means that while it’s difficult to put a newborn on a true feeding schedule, a newborn should generally never go more than four hours without eating, including overnight, although your pediatrician or lactation consultant may have recommendations that are more specific to Baby.
This should continue for the first 2 to 4 weeks, at which point Baby’s growing tummy will allow them to stay full for longer, and the frequency of their feedings should drop, though they may seem to regress at certain points and eat a bit more often, as a way of fueling a growth spurt.
Signs of hunger
Because on-demand feeding is generally regarded as the best way to feed a newborn, it’s important to be able to recognize the signs of a hungry one. These may include:
- Early signs: Opening their mouth, licking their lips, puckering their mouth, or turning their head ‘rooting’ for breast or bottle.
- Mid signs: Putting their fingers, fist or clothes in their mouth, sucking, restless movements, stretching, trying to lie in a ‘nursing’ position.
- Late signs: Frantic movements, crying.
Even if a child isn’t showing serious signs of hunger, it’s still important not to go more than four hours without offering them a feeding. Each feeding in these first few days should be at least 0.5 oz or more in volume.
Formula-fed newborns should eat a little bit less, because breast milk digests easier than formula, so their tiny digestive system will be less hungry than their breastfed peers. These little ones should feed every 2 to 3 hours, and less as they get older. Personal preference dictates bottle making — some opt to make one per feeding, others choose to pre-make and refrigerate for use. All babies will feed less frequently as they age, and develop a more reliable schedule.
- Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph. “Breastfeeding FAQs: How much and how often.” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, February 2015. Retrieved October 25 2017. http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/breastfeed-often.html#.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Feeding your newborn: Tips for new parents.” Mayo Clinic Staff. Mayo Clinic Staff, April 17 2015. Retrieved October 25 2017. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/healthy-baby/art-20047741.
- “How Much and How Often Should Your Baby Eat.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Retrieved October 25 2017. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/How-Often-and-How-Much-Should-Your-Baby-Eat.aspx.
- “How Often Should I Nurse My Baby?” La Leche League International. La Leche League International, August 6 2009. Retrieved October 25 2017. http://www.llli.org/faq/frequency.html.