How Often to Feed Your Newborn
Generally, newborns need to nurse at least eight to 12 times every 24 hours. They will usually feed every one to three hours in the first weeks of life and may sleep longer at night. Daily feeding patterns will vary and may change as baby grows.
The first few days of life, your newborn may be sleepy and only nurse for short periods lasting 10 to 15 minutes. This is very normal and will change as baby becomes more alert. A healthy full-term newborn will establish a nursing pattern suitable for her/himself.
It is best to look for infant cues, when the eyes are open and baby has his/her hand near his/her mouth and makes sucking motions with mouth. Crying is really a late feeding cue, so recognizing early cues will make for a more relaxed breastfeeding for mom and baby.
To meet the nutritional needs of your newborn we encourage you to watch your baby and his/her feeding cues instead of watching the clock.
Know when your baby is full
When your baby stops sucking, closes his or her mouth, or turns away from the nipple or bottle, he or she may be full — or simply taking a break. Try burping your baby or waiting a minute before offering your breast or the bottle again. If your baby is ready to end the feeding, he or she will resist more vigorously.
Expect variations in your baby's eating patterns
Your baby won't necessarily eat the same amount every day. During growth spurts — often at 10 to 14 days after birth, as well as between three and six weeks — your baby may take more at each feeding or want to be fed more often. After a few days, the pattern should become more predictable. When your baby begins to drop middle-of-the-night feedings, he or she may want a daytime "catch-up" feeding.
Trust your instincts — and your baby's
You may worry that your newborn isn't eating enough, but babies usually know just how much they need. Don't focus on how much, how often and how regularly your baby eats. Instead, look for contentment between feedings, six to eight wet diapers in 24 hours, alertness, good skin tone and steady weight gain — about four to seven ounces (113 to 198 grams) a week for the first month.
Still, it's important to know the signs of underfeeding.
Contact the doctor if your newborn:
- Wets fewer than six to eight diapers a day
- Isn't gaining weight
- Has a change in bowel movement frequency
- Shows little interest in feedings
Get regular well-baby checkups
Your baby's doctor will likely want to weigh your newborn and do a physical exam three to five days after you and your baby leave the hospital. Be sure to keep this and other follow-up appointments so that you and the doctor can track your baby's progress.
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