Feeding a baby takes up time and energy. Not just practically, but emotionally. We guarantee, you’ll frequently find yourself wondering if your baby is hungry, if she’s had enough to eat, if you should be dropping/adding a feed. As if there wasn’t enough to worry about when you’re a parent! We’ve answered some of the most common questions about feeding to try and help.
1How often do newborns need to feed?
You can expect your new baby to feed anything between eight and 12 times a day during the first few weeks. They don’t have a lot of strength or energy, so little and often is the way to do it.
If you’re breastfeeding, feed on demand – when your baby is hungry. This will usually be every one to three hours. Try feeding for ten or 15 minutes on each breast to begin with and adjust as necessary.
If you’re feeding formula, newborns will drink on average 2-3 fluid ounces (56-85ml) every two to four hours.
Newborn babies shouldn’t go more than four or five hours without a feed.
2How can I tell if my baby is hungry?
There are a few signs to look for that indicate your baby is hungry. He’ll move his head from side to side and open his mouth. You’ll notice him sticking out his tongue and pursing his lips as if trying to suck. He’ll put his hands and fists in his mouth. If you’re carrying him, he’ll turn his head to nuzzle your breasts.
He will also cry, of course, and in time you’ll come to recognise the sound that means “I’m hungry”. If you’re breastfeeding and finding it difficult, it’s a good idea to feed your baby as soon as you notice the other signs of hunger. If your baby gets too worked up, it can be hard to calm him and get him latched on.
3Some people say babies need a schedule – is that true?
It’s been a long time since new mothers were advised to stick to a feeding schedule. Frankly, it makes no sense. If your baby is hungry after two hours, making her wait for three will only result in both of you becoming distressed.
Your baby will let you know when he needs a feed and you’ll soon settle into your own routine. He’ll let you know when he’s had enough, too. His sucking will slow, and he’ll spit out his bottle or unlatch from your breast. He’ll close his mouth and turn away.
As your baby grows, he’ll eat more at each feed and go longer between needing another. There may be times – usually before a growth spurt – when he might suddenly want more milk than usual. Be guided by him and be flexible.
4How much milk does my baby need?
Naturally, the number of feeds and how much milk your baby needs each time will change as he gets older. The following rough guide should help, though.
- Newborns will drink 2-3 fluid ounces (56-85ml) at a time, every two to four hours.
- By one month old, they will drink around 4 fluid ounces (114ml) every four hours.
- By six months, they’ll drink 6-8 fluid ounces (170-230ml) each time but will only feed four or five times a day. You’ll also find your baby stops needing to feed in the middle of the night.
Generally, the average baby will drink 2-3 fluid ounces (56-85ml) of milk each day for every pound of their body weight, up to a maximum of 32 fluid ounces (910ml). So if your new baby weighs 7lbs (3.2kg), he’ll need 14-21 fluid ounces each day. A four-month-old baby who weighs 14lbs (6.35kg) will need 28-32 fluid ounces (795-910ml) each day.
5Is my baby drinking enough milk?
If you’re bottle-feeding, it’s very easy to see exactly how much milk your baby is drinking. Wondering whether their little one is eating enough is usually more of a concern for breastfeeding mothers.
As long as your baby produces plenty of wet nappies – around six to eight each day – and has regular bowel movements, he’s fine. If he sleeps well, is alert during his ‘awake’ times and gains weight steadily, all is as it should be.
If he’s fussy, cries a lot, always seems hungry and doesn’t settle or appear satisfied after a feed, then it is possible he’s not getting enough milk. If this is the case, talk to your doctor, midwife or health visitor.
6What about when my baby eats solids?
When your baby starts to eat solid food, milk will still be his primary source of nutrition. Whether you offer milk before or after solids is up to you and will depend on what works best for you and your baby.
An older baby still needs around 20 fluid ounces (568ml) of milk each day to meet his nutritional needs and can have up to 32 fluid ounces (910ml).
7Does my baby need a supplement?
If you’re breastfeeding, your baby will need a vitamin D supplement, which is vital for healthy growth and development. Otherwise, your breast milk is perfectly formulated with the right balance of vitamins and iron.
Supplements aren’t usually necessary for bottle-fed babies, as formula is produced with the right balance of vitamins, minerals and iron. However, a vitamin D supplement may still be necessary in some cases.