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If you are wondering how much should a newborn eat, you have come to the right place!
This is a very common question that new parents ask about feeding their babies and a very good one, too!
I’m glad you asked!
The answer…. it depends!
How much should a newborn eat who is breastfeeding vs. formula-feeding?
That is the big question here. Depending on your infant feeding choice, it varies.
It is much easier to keep track of a formula-fed baby’s milk volumes.
But, if you are breastfeeding, you have no way of tracking the volume intake of the feeding.
Sometimes this can really be difficult for new moms!
It is quite common for a breastfeeding mother to worry if her baby is getting enough to eat.
This is especially true when you have a fussy feeder!
Many new moms assume that because their infant is fussy at the breast, that they are not making enough milk.
Relax! This is usually NOT the case!
In this post, I am about to demystify this for you and provide exclusively breastfeeding mothers some tips for knowing if your baby is getting enough to eat!
Always check with your doctor about your baby’s weight gain
Before we go any further about what’s normal with newborn feedings, I want to make sure that you are in conversation with your baby’s doctor about her weight gain.
It is very normal (and expected) that your newborn will lose a few ounces in the first few days after birth. But you want to make sure that she doesn’t lose too much weight!
For this reason, it is really important that your baby’s weight be closely monitored during the first two weeks, as well as keeping track of his wet and soiled diapers.
If your baby has not reached his birth weight by the two week check-up, there may be serious concerns about his calorie intake.
In fact, this may be the case even before the two week visit.
Pro-Tip – A very sleepy baby at the breast can sometimes be a sign of trouble.
If you have any concerns about your baby’s feedings or lack of wet or soiled diapers, make sure that you reach out to your doctor or lactation professional right away!
How much should a newborn eat who is breastfeeding?
If your newborn is exclusively breastfeeding, then perhaps the best question to ask is how often.
Breastfeeding babies need to eat often and they usually do!
It is not recommended that breastfeeding infants ever be placed on a feeding schedule. Why? Because it just doesn’t work that way!
If you try to get your breastfeeding baby to feed on your terms, you will be setting yourself up for a very frustrating experience.
Not only that, but your baby may not be getting the calories or nourishment that he needs!
Instead, it is highly recommended that breastfed babies be always fed “on-demand”.
What do we mean by “on demand” feedings?
This simply means that we watch the baby and allow her to tell us when she is hungry.
Your baby will usually tell you when she is hungry, signaling with hunger or feeding cues.
Common feeding cues are smacking her lips, opening her mouth, sucking on her fingers, or crying.
Since crying is a late feeding cue, try to catch the earlier cues to ensure more peaceful feedings!
You will probably notice that your newborn will sometimes want to nurse non-stop for a few hours each day.
This is called cluster-feeding and yes, it also very normal! Even if your baby has just eaten, it is okay to feed him again!
In the case of a very sleepy baby, make sure that you wake her often to eat during the day.
Always feed a newborn every 2-3 hours during the day and never go past 3 hours between daytime feedings.
(This means from the start of the last feeding to the start of the next feeding should not exceed 3 hours!)
Breastfeeding Supply and Demand
Here is another very important reason that breastfed babies should never be placed on a feeding schedule.
Your newborn will go through growth spurts quite often and their feeding needs will change.
At the start of each growth spurt, it is very natural for a breastfed baby to nurse more often to increase supply.
We often see this increased “demand” during cluster-feeding sessions!
This is the way your baby signals your breasts to ramp up milk production for his upcoming growth spurt.
If we don’t allow baby to feed “on demand”, then this necessary signaling won’t take place.
Your body will not increase milk production and your baby will not get the extra milk that he needs!
Since we are talking about milk supply here, allowing your baby to suckle often at the breast is the absolute best way to increase milk supply!
It is the way our bodies were designed to work.
Ignore all the comments about how much your baby is breastfeeding and FEED YOUR BABY! (Most people just need to be educated about this!)
Galactagogues and Milk Supply
Contrary to popular belief, there is no strong scientific evidence to support the use of lactation cookies, breastfeeding teas or other galactagogues.
Some say they work, but there is no solid evidence to support this.
Having said this, I am personally not against the use of them.
I do (strongly) believe that eating a nourishing real food diet and drinking lots of water encourages a healthy milk supply!
How do I know if my breastfed baby is getting enough to eat?
There are several ways that a breastfeeding mother can tell if her newborn is getting enough breast milk at each feeding.
Here are some of the easiest ways:
- Baby has plenty of wet and soiled diapers – If your baby is less than 2 weeks old, please follow your doctor’s recommendations for this. Most hospitals will send new parents home with a handy chart for tracking this. The number of wet and poopy diapers should be increasing every day and by the time your breast milk “comes in”, the wet diapers should increase to 6 or more per day while the stools increase to at least 3 per day. (source) It is not uncommon for a breastfeeding baby to pass stool after each feeding! This is also a very good sign that she is getting enough milk!
- Baby is relaxed or sleepy after a feeding – I like to call this “milk drunk” because a baby that is satisfied after a feeding session can often appear extra relaxed or drunk!
- Mom’s breast feels soft and “empty” after a full feeding.
- Baby has fed at least 10 minutes at each breast. – Allow your baby to fully empty your breast before switching sides. This will help ensure that he gets the fatty “hind milk” that is rich and satisfying.
- Baby has good and consistent weight gain
- Milk is visible during feedings (leaking or dripping)
- You can hear baby’s swallowing during breastfeeding.
- Baby should be nursing 8-12 times each day.
“Milk drunk” baby!
What if my baby is not showing feeding cues?
Wake him! Change his diaper, take off his clothes, tickle his feet, give him a bath.
He should never go longer than 3 hours between daytime feedings. (Not unless you want to be up all night feeding him!)
Your baby needs a certain amount of calories during a 24 hour period.
If he doesn’t get those calories during the day, he will want to eat more often at night and you DON’T want that!
It could be that your baby has his days and night mixed up! This is a common newborn problem. Here are some tips to help remedy this!
If all else fails and he is not eating, call your doctor!
How much weight gain is normal for a newborn?
Your infant will be weighed at each doctor’s visit.
This is one of the best ways to tell your baby is getting enough milk.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that newborns be evaluated between 3 to 5 days of age to check on breastfeeding and weight gain.
Once your milk supply is established, your baby should gain between ½ and 1 ounce per day during the first 3 months.
This weight gain is usually about the same for formula-fed babies.
Most newborns will gain about 5-7 oz a week for the first few months and many babies will double their birth weight by 4 months.
However, at 4 months, weight gain will begin to look different for breastfed and formula fed babies.
Research clearly shows that breastfed babies and formula fed babies grow at different rates starting at about 4 months of age.
At this point, formula fed babies will usually gain weight at a faster rate.
How much should a newborn eat who is bottle-feeding?
As with breastfeeding babies, it is important to watch your baby and follow his feeding cues.
But generally speaking, it is a bit easier to use a feeding schedule with newborns who are formula fed.
Although, like breastfeeding, every baby will have different feeding needs and volumes.
Watch your baby for signs that he is no longer hungry: turning his head away from the bottle, not sucking or falling asleep.
Resist the urge to make your baby finish his bottle if it is clear that he is no longer interested!
Most newborns will take about 2-3 ounces of formula per feeding during the first few weeks.
By the end of the first month, your baby will gradually increase volumes, working up to 4-6 ounces every 3-4 hours by 6 months. Having said this, your baby might be different, too!
So always check with your doctor if you are concerned about his bottle feedings.
As in the case of a breastfed baby, babies who are bottle fed will often want to eat a bit more at bedtime.
If he seems restless or unable to doze off to sleep, try offering him an extra ounce to settle him to sleep during the evening hours.
Pro-Tip: For all babies… remember this important sleep formula…..
**More daytime feedings = less night time wakings!!**
Paced Bottle Feeding
Is your bottle fed baby eating too fast or over-eating?
It is very likely.
Over feeding is a very common concern with bottle fed babies!
Even babies who take breast milk in bottles can be over-fed or fed too quickly.
The reason for this is that the milk flow in a bottle is much faster than the natural flow of the breast.
If you don’t pace the bottle feeding, it is possible that your baby is eating too fast.
When a baby eats too fast, he is likely taking in more milk than he really needs.
This can cause all kinds of problems such as reflux, gas, colic, and overeating.
If your baby is drinking formula or breast milk through a bottle, pacing the feeding is a good idea!
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