Knowing What’s Normal for Your Newborn’s Eating Habits
Newborns come with so many questions and things for you to learn. How do you change diapers without getting pee all over everything—and yourself? When do babies start sleeping through the night? How much should a newborn eat? Combine those questions with the lack of sleep and hormones coursing through your body, and the first few months are usually quite stressful. Knowing what’s normal for your newborn’s nutritional intake can eliminate at least one of those worries.
How Much Do Breastfed Babies Eat?
Breastfed babies usually eat more often than bottle-fed babies because their bodies digest breast milk more quickly. Since the milk moves through the digestive system faster, your baby gets hungry faster than he would on formula.
Breastfed babies usually eat eight to 12 times per day during the first month. That works out to nursing sessions about every two to three hours. The number of feedings usually drops to seven to nine nursing sessions a day when your baby is 4 to 8 weeks old.
How Much Do Bottle-Fed Babies Eat?
Formula-fed babies tend to go longer between feeding sessions since their bodies take longer to process the formula. Expect your formula-fed baby to eat every three to four hours in the beginning.
No matter how you feed your baby, you may notice occasional periods when she eats more than normal. Babies hit growth spurts when they’re 7 to 14 days old, at 3 to 6 weeks of age, and again at 4 months and 6 months. At those times, you may notice a temporary increase in how often and how much your baby eats.
Feeding on Demand
Don’t get too caught up in how often you need to feed your baby. Experts recommended feeding your baby on demand. That simply means you feed your baby when she’s hungry instead of trying to get her on a feeding schedule.
Signs of Hunger
Look for signals that she’s hungry, so you know when to feed your newborn. When your baby is overly hungry, she may begin to cry. Try to catch her hints before she reaches that point.
Common hunger cues in babies include:
- Increased alertness
- Rooting, or moving her head toward your breast
- Smacking lips
- Sucking on hands or fingers
- Sticking out tongue
- Kicking and squirming
Feed your baby until she shows that she is full. Babies let you know when they’ve had enough by turning away from the breast or bottle, getting distracted, fidgeting or closing their mouths.
Should You Wake Your Baby for Feedings?
The idea of waking a sleeping newborn sounds a little crazy, but experts recommend waking babies for nighttime feedings in certain situations. In particular, babies who haven’t yet regained the weight they naturally lose after birth may need a wakeup call. A baby needs those frequent feedings to return to birth weight. After that, you can let your little one sleep.
How Do You Know if Your Baby Is Getting Enough to Eat?
Moms often worry if their babies are getting enough food. It can be particularly difficult when breastfeeding to know how much milk your baby actually eats. All babies are different, so don’t worry too much if your baby seems to eat more or less than average. Monitor a few aspects of your baby’s development to figure out if his eating patterns are normal.
Look at your child’s diapers and weight gain to gauge if he’s getting the needed nutrition. Your baby should have about four to six wet diapers each day and regular bowel movements. He also should show steady weight gain. If everything looks good in those areas, your little one is likely getting plenty to eat.
When to Call Your Pediatrician
Never hesitate to call your pediatrician about your nutrition concerns. It may be nothing, but if a problem arises, you want to remedy it as soon as possible. For example, if your baby seems to be hungry all the time or doesn’t eat as much as you think she should, bring it up with your pediatrician.
In addition, if your baby isn’t producing enough wet diapers or regular bowel movements, check with your doctor. If you’re concerned about nutrition, buy a scale, so you can track your newborn’s weight gain. Your pediatrician monitors weight gain at appointments, but you may feel better tracking your newborn’s weight at home as well.