The Guessing Game Of Feeding A Newborn

Breastfed babies generally eat more frequently -- sometimes double the amount -- as formula-fed babies. The reason? Breast milk is much easier for a baby to digest and passes through their system a lot quicker than formula does.

mom breastfeeding a newborn

Hunger cues

You'll notice your baby is hungry when he shows you all or some of these hunger cues:

  • Alert
  • Sucking motion
  • Rooting
  • Brings hands to face or mouth (with or without rooting) 
  • Stick out tongue
  • Kick or squirm

Remember: Crying is considered a late hunger cue.

Is my baby getting enough?

Ninety percent of milk in the breast is emptied within the first 10 minutes of a feeding. These are ways to determine if your baby is getting enough breast milk:

  • At least six wet diapers in a day
  • At least three to four bowel movements in a day
  • Gaining weight at well-check appointments
  • Seems satisfied after a feeding

Every baby is different

All my babies started off by being breastfed every two hours for the first six to eight weeks. As they -- and their stomachs -- grew, the time between feedings would stretch out over time.

I know some newborns who were breastfed every two hours for a few weeks and then went straight into a pattern of being nursed every four hours plus sleeping through the night. That is typically not the norm, so don't expect it, and don't get discouraged when you hear these stories from your family and friends and your baby isn't doing it.

Remember: Everyone's definition of "sleeping through the night" is different, so take these stories with a grain of salt.

Don't forget about growth spurts

There will be several growth spurts in the first 12 months of your baby's life. Growth spurts typically happen as follows:

  • 7 to 10 days
  • 2 to 3 weeks
  • 4 to 6 weeks
  • 3 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 9 months
  • 12 months

Remember: Every baby grows at a different pace. These ages are guidelines.

During a growth spurt, you might notice your breasts and/or nipples are sore from the increased amount of feedings or increased intensity of the feedings. As your baby grows and becomes more efficient at the breast (or during a growth spurt), he will demand more milk production all on his own. A small amount of pain or discomfort can be normal. If you are concerned, call your doctor.


More on breastfeeding

New AAP breastfeeding recommendations
How to warm and reheat stored breast milk
Safe practices for storing expressed breast milk


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