At Westchester Health, we get a lot of first-time parents who get really anxious wondering if they’re feeding their newborn often enough and giving them enough at each feeding. We understand…we’re parents too. To help calm their fears and give some helpful guidelines, we offer this blog by Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with our Westchester Health Pediatrics group (excerpted below). There is also a lot of helpful information and advice for new parents on the WHP website which you can access here.
How to know if your baby is hungry
Most babies are very good at letting you know they’re hungry and need to be fed. They cry! However, it’s worth noting that crying doesn’t necessarily mean they’re hungry. A lot of times they just need to be cuddled, changed or put to bed. Or they might be overstimulated, bored, scared, startled, or too hot or too cold. The more you get to know your baby and learn the cues of what he or she is trying to communicate, the more you’ll be able to figure out if hunger is the cause of the crying or if it’s something else.
The most common hungry signs are:
- putting their hands, fingers and fists in their mouths
- puckering their lips as if to suck
- nuzzling again their mother’s breasts
- demonstrating the rooting reflex (moving their mouth in the direction of something that’s stroking or touching their cheek)
- opening their mouth
- sticking their tongue out
- moving their head from side to side
When should you feed your baby? Whenever he/she seems hungry
At Westchester Health, we strongly recommend that babies be fed whenever they’re hungry. Some newborns may need to be awakened every few hours to make sure they’re getting enough to eat (more frequently if your pediatrician is concerned about weight gain). Optimally, you want to feed your baby before he/she gets so hungry and upset that it’s hard to calm him/her down. A frantic, overly hungry baby is tough on everyone.
Here’s a helpful feeding guide from TheBump.com
Amounts if you’re breastfeeding
With breastfeeding, it’s hard to measure exactly how much your baby is eating. If he/she seems satisfied after feeding, produces 4-5 wet and/or poopy diapers a day, sleeps well and is gaining weight regularly, you can be confident that he/she is eating enough. Another way to tell if your baby is getting enough is if your breasts feel full before nursing and noticeably less full afterward.
A breastfed baby should eat:
- Most newborns eat every 2-3 hours, or 8-12 times every 24 hours. For the first 1-2 days of life might, they typically only eat ½ ounce per feeding. After that, they’ll eat 1-2 ounces per feeding, increasing to 2-3 ounces by 2 weeks of age.
- At 2 months, babies usually eat 4-5 ounces every 3-4 hours.
- At 4 months,they should be eating 4-6 ounces per feeding.
- At 6 months,they should be eating 8 ounces every 4-5 hours.
How often if you’re breastfeeding
A newborn should typically breastfeed every 2-3 hours (or more) or 8-12 times a day. As your baby’s stomach gets bigger and can hold more milk, he/she will be able to go longer between feedings, usually about 3-4 hours. He/she will also get more efficient, usually taking in 90% of the milk he/she needs within the first 10 minutes of nursing.
For formula-fed babies
Since babies tend to digest formula more slowly, they can go longer between feedings. Your baby will likely get hungry every 3-4 hours, eating about 2 ounces per feeding as a newborn and progressing to 4 ounces by the end of the first month. Expect to add about an ounce per month until he/she is eating 6-7 ounces of formula at a time, which usually happens at 6 months of age. In general, 32 ounces of formula a day is the most your baby will ever need. (When babies are hungry for more than that, it often means they’re ready to start eating solids, which typically happens around the 6-month mark.)
If you’re breastfeeding and formula feeding
For mothers who combine breastfeeding and formula, aim for at least 6-8 feedings per day of one or the other (this will decrease as your baby gets older), but since breast milk and formula are nutritionally equivalent, it’s simply a matter of finding the mix that works best for you and your baby.
NOTE: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months. To learn more about the important health benefits of breastfeeding for you and your baby, read this WHP blog on the subject.
Want to know more about how much and how often to feed your baby? Come see us.
You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Please please make an appointment with Westchester Health to come in and talk to one of our pediatricians. We have years of experience helping parents raise healthy, happy babies and we’re ready to help you with yours in any way we can. We look forward to meeting you and your baby soon. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.
To read Dr. Adler’s blog in full, click here.