The Master of the Mini-Meals -- Are You Feeding Your Newborn Enough?

Does your newborn barely seem like its taking anything in during feedings? How do you know if your baby is getting enough?

As a new parent you are beginning to realize your little one now consumes you. If you aren’t directly interacting with your baby, you are probably worrying about them or missing them.

Many parents struggle with their baby when it comes to feedings. If only that little baby could talk and let you know when enough was enough, or when it wants more.

If you can gain a better understanding regarding newborns’ appetites, you will be able to better understand that little baby of your own.

How Often Will My Newborn Eat?

It is likely your newborn will want to eat about every 2 to 4 hours. They are the masters of mini-meals, so while they will eat often, they won’t eat much during one sitting.

A breastfeeding mom should try and feed her newborn every 2 to 3 hours or on-demand to ensure she is keeping her milk supply up. This translates into about 8 to 12 feedings a day.

If your baby is formula fed, you can multiply your baby’s weight by 2.5 to see how many ounces it should consume each day. A 7-pound baby would need about 17.5 ounces of formula in 24 hours. Most breastfed babies eat around 20 to 30 ounces a day.

It’s important your newborn does not go longer than 4 to 5 hours without a feeding.

Why Do Newborns Feed A Lot?

A newborn feeds a lot because their stomach is small and it can only hold tiny amounts of milk.

Breastfed babies actually tend to eat more often than formula-fed babies because breast milk breaks down faster in their stomach. The formula takes longer to break down, so your baby will feel fuller for longer amounts of time (source).

Is My Baby Hungry?

If your baby is hungry, it will try to let you know. Its crying can be the tell-tale sign.

Sometimes your baby exhibits other signs that can help signal to you it is time for them to eat.

  • Moving head from side to side.
  • Constantly opening mouth.
  • Sucking on hands.
  • Puckering the lips to indicate sucking.
  • Sticking out the tongue.
  • Nuzzling against the breast.
  • Crying.

It is possible your baby does some of the above items for many different reasons, but you should always offer milk to see if hunger is the culprit (source).

Is My Baby Full?

If your baby is ready to be done with a feeding, he or she will exhibit signs that let you know enough is enough.

It is important to take note of these signs, because overfeeding can lead to unnecessary spit up.

  • Slowing down.
  • Spitting out bottle nipple.
  • Unlatching from breast.
  • Closing mouth.
  • Turning away from breast or bottle.

If your baby does these things once, it may be an accident or because he or she needs to burp. Try to continue the feeding once more. If any of the signs persist, then end the feeding.

Is My Baby Getting Enough?

It can be difficult to know if your baby is getting enough to eat, especially if you are breastfeeding.

You will typically have an appointment with your pediatrician just a few days after birth. During this time your doctor will check your baby’s weight and as long as your baby is gaining weight, the amount he or she is eating should be just fine.

If you have any questions regarding feedings, this is also a great time for you to receive answers to those.

In general, there are some signs to help you determine if your baby is actually getting enough.

  • Having 6 to 8 wet diapers a day.
  • Regular bowel movements.
  • Sleeping well.
  • Alert when awake.
  • Gaining weight.

If your baby seems fussy or dissatisfied after a feeding, it is possible it isn’t getting enough.

For breastfeeding moms, the visual confirmation is out of the picture and this can make it much more difficult to know just how much your baby is getting. There are certain baby scales you can buy where you will measure your baby before and after a feeding to see the weight gain.

Another option is to pump your breastmilk and then give your baby a bottle. I would only recommend this if you are going to be away from your baby, or if you are very concerned about weight gain.

What Are Cluster Feedings?

Just when you think you have a handle on feedings, a curve ball can be thrown your way. Sometimes babies tend to go longer periods of time and then eat many times in a row — this is called cluster feeding. This usually occurs in the evening, and it is not abnormal.

When a baby does this, it is usually followed by a longer sleep period after. If your baby seems to want to be fed literally every hour for a decent part of the day, it could be because he or she is fueling up for a long sleep.

Cluster feeding typically only takes place in breastfed babies. When they cluster feed, they will likely feed for a few minutes, fuss, then feed again. This behavior can go on for hours and have mom feeling crazy.

If your baby behaves in this way, don’t immediately worry you ate something wrong or your baby isn’t getting enough milk. Cluster feeding could very well be to blame (source).

Should I Wake Baby For Feedings?

In the first few weeks of your newborn’s life, it is possible it will snooze right through a feeding.

It is important a baby receives all necessary feedings because its tummy is so small and can empty relatively quickly.

If you are breastfeeding and your baby sleeps for more than 3 hours, it is important you wake your baby up in order for you to maintain your milk supply. A formula-fed baby can sleep for about 4 hours, but then should be woke up to feed (source).

You should wake your baby during the first few weeks of its life, but eventually it is a good thing your baby is going longer periods without feeding.

It may seem impossible, but your baby will eventually make the transition to sleeping through the night without food. In the meantime, your newborn needs all the nutrients he can get!

Some advise that once your baby has reached its birth weight, after the weight dip many newborns have initially after birth, that you no longer need to wake it if it sleeps through a feeding. If your baby is consistently sleeping through feedings, you should ask your doctor’s opinion on waking your baby up.

Related Reading:
Pump or Sleep? Do I Need to Pump at Night to Maintain Supply?

Each baby is different and it is best to be on the safe side and seek the advice of your doctor (source).

Age-By-Age Eating

Your baby will go through many changes in the first year of life, and many of them have to do with feeding patterns. In this first year, your baby will transition from a liquid diet to one driven by solids.

It is beneficial to familiarize yourself with the monthly transitions.

1. Birth To The First Month

The first month is difficult for mom and baby because you are both trying to adjust to this new life. Your newborn will be feeding what seems like all the time, and it can be hard to catch a break.

Your baby should be eating about 2 to 4 ounces of milk per feeding. If your baby is formula fed, she will probably eat 7 to 8 times a day. A breastfed baby may eat around 12 times a day (source).

You should establish on-demand feeding with your baby if you are breastfeeding because it will help maintain your supply and keep your baby in control of the intake. It is possible your baby will simply want a snack or a drink, instead of a meal.

2. 1 Month to 3 Months

The first month will probably seem like a big blur at this point. You probably had no idea such a tiny baby could eat so many times in one day!

Your baby’s tummy has increased in size, and your baby should now be able to consume 5 to 6 ounces of milk per feeding. A breastfed baby will likely have at least one more feeding than a formula fed baby, putting the daily feedings somewhere around 6 to 8.

You will notice your baby’s appetite has significantly increased, and if you are breastfeeding this may be a major cause for concern. The good news is, your body should make all the necessary adjustments on its own. As long as you are feeding your baby each time or expressing milk during typical feeding times, your supply should adapt (source).

3. 3 Months to 6 Months

Some parents want to quickly implement solids into their baby’s routine in hopes of getting them to sleep through the night. This is actually not advised as it can cause other complications for your baby. Most solids should be held off until around the 6-month mark.

Your baby should consume 6 to 8 ounces of milk per feeding, and feeding about 4 to 6 times per day.

Your baby still relies on getting all of its nutrition through breastmilk or formula at this stage. The 3- to 6-month age range is a time that makes many progressions and regressions.

You may think your baby is regressing if it was cutting back on feedings, and then all of a sudden your baby is wanting extra feedings for more than one day. If this happens, it is likely your baby is going through a growth spurt.

Growth spurts occur numerous times during the first year of life. Just look at the size of a one year old and a newborn. Your baby needs that extra energy to help grow big and strong. If your baby seems to be eating and sleeping more than usual, it is probably due to growing up (source).

4. 6 Months to 12 Months

The 6-month mark is a major milestone — your baby is halfway to a year old. What better way to celebrate a half birthday than having the chance to eat solids for the first time.

You should start implementing solids into your baby’s diet at 6 months, but milk is still essential.

Signs your baby is ready for solids include:

  • The ability to stay in a sitting position.
  • Holds head steady.
  • Eye-hand coordination, to be able to pick food up and bring it to the mouth.
  • Shows interest in watching parents eat.

Foods your baby must avoid:

  • Unpasteurized cheeses.
  • Honey.
  • Nuts.
  • Seeds.
  • Shellfish.
  • Raw or partly cooked egg.
Your baby should get 7 to 8 ounces of milk per feeding, with approximately four feedings a day. This should be accompanied by increasing amounts of solids during regular mealtimes.

Some parents begin implementing only two meals consisting of solids, but eventually your baby should transition to three meals consisting of solids per day.

You should start out with small amounts of solids and gradually increase them. Remember to introduce one new food at a time to monitor possible food allergies (source).

Keep In Mind

All babies are different and the above averages may not apply to your baby. No one knows your baby better than you do, so if you think your baby isn’t getting enough to eat — add a feeding. If you have any worries at all, consult with your pediatrician.

When breastfeeding, there isn’t really a limit on the amount your baby should eat for the first few weeks of life. You can overfeed your baby with formula, but your baby should refuse the bottle far before this happens.

If you are formula feeding your baby and they always finish a bottle quickly, add more formula to the bottle. Don’t hold back because your baby is above average. As long as your doctor is happy with your baby’s progress, you have nothing to worry about.

Some babies do start eating solids before 6 months, and some babies start eating them after. If your doctor advises it and your baby is showing increased interest in solids, go ahead and begin the transition.

The Bottom Line

In the beginning it is difficult to become familiar with this new human, even if it is your son or daughter. There is no shame in that, it just takes time.

Before you know it, you will be able to read your baby like a book. No one will know your baby better than you do. You will learn to know when your baby is full, and when it wants more.

Your newborn may seem like it is eating all the time and never comes up for air, but this isn’t abnormal. If you have any concerns, don’t be afraid to voice them to your pediatrician.

As long as your baby is gaining weight and seems content, all should be well. The first few months are the most challenging, but eventually your baby’s tummy will grow and their ability to consume more food will too.

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