A newborn baby’s stomach is pretty darn tiny—about the size of a cherry, or a marble. By day 3, it’s the size of a walnut. That’s usually not big enough for even 0.5 to 1 ounce of liquids. It’s no wonder they need to feed every few hours. Still, it’s a lot for moms to handle, especially when you throw spit-up, bottles and dirty diapers into the mix!
Here are a few tips and tools to help your little one get on a feeding routine, so that those 3-4 hour blocks in between feedings are more manageable.
How much is too much?
If possible, begin breastfeeding your baby within an hour of their birth (this, according to La Leche League International); from there, the goal is to have 8-12 feedings daily for the first few weeks of their life. We know, it’s a lot!
In the early days and weeks, your baby will want to feed every couple of hours—try not to let your baby go too long (like 4+ hours) without feeding. That means that sleep can be tricky, since you’ll have to wake them up during the night to feed. As they grow (including their stomachs), they’ll be able to drink more milk in each feeding.
For breastfed babies, Healthline recommends the following:
1 to 3 months: Your baby will feed 7 to 9 times per 24 hours.
3 months: Feedings take place 6 to 8 times in 24 hours.
6 months: Your baby will feed around 6 times a day.
12 months: Nursing may drop to about 4 times a day. The introduction of solids at about 6 months helps to fuel your baby’s additional nutritional needs.
Just like breastfed babies, bottle-fed babies should eat on demand, too and often. By that, we mean every 2-3 hours for newborns and every 3-4 hours by the time they are around two-months old.
Get to know the signs and sounds
Babies might not be able to speak yet, but they use other ways to communicate. Getting familiar with their hunger cues will help create a routine down the line. For example, when your baby first wakes up in the morning, they will be hungry and ready to eat.
Then, after feeding, keep an eye on their eyes. If they start to look sleepy, this is your cue to put them down for a nap; otherwise, they might get a second burst of energy that can lead to crankiness.
Another alternative that some parents use is to wait until their baby is extra sleepy to add in another feeding. This can make the baby tired enough to fall asleep.
Allow for some flexibility
Schedules are best when followed but your baby is a living, breathing being that changes every day. A general rule of thumb is to feed your baby when they are hungry, even if it’s more than they normally eat. Why? Well, your babies need more milk during growth spurts, which tend to happen around the 3-week, 3-month and 6-month marks.
You might also notice “cluster feeding” where babies feed more during certain times of the day or night, and less during others. For example, if your baby cluster feeds in the late afternoon and early evening, that probably means they will sleep for a longer period at night.
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