It’s one of the most frequently asked questions by and for new moms everywhere. It is also, according to many moms, one of the most stressful concerns when dealing with newborns:
How much should my newborn baby eat?
We get it. Plotting and charting your newborn’s eating habits is no walk in the park, but we’re here to help. With this article, we hope to give you all the ins and outs of babies’ eating patterns to help soothe your stress and make your first experiences feeding your newborn child as stress-less as possible.
The best answer is a lot simpler than you might think.
Here it is: babies should eat… whenever they’re hungry.
We know, we know. Sounds a bit too simple, right? But feeding on demand, or demand feeding or responsive feeding is one of the best ways to ensure that your baby is getting the food and nutrients it needs to grow and develop properly.
Here’s one thing you should know about babies: they’re experts at body language.
When a baby is hungry, it’ll give you all the right cues at all the right times. The key is to catch onto some of these cues before the baby is so hungry that it starts crying.
Here they are:
1. Fussiness – this is the most obvious preamble to crying. When a baby becomes overly fussy, chances are they’re getting a little hungry.
2. Leaving the mouth wide open
3. Rooting – when a baby thrusts its jaw around, open-mouthed, in search of a breast, that’s called rooting. It means your baby is probably pretty famished.
4. Sucking – on everything. Everywhere.
5. Sticking out the tongue, licking lips, shoving hands in mouth
Some of these symptoms, for example, fussiness, are not exclusive to hunger. Sometimes babies need to be held, snuggled, or changed. It’s not the easiest game of spot-the-difference for new parents – but once you grow accustomed to your baby’s habits, you’ll be able to pick up on all the idiosyncrasies of the different types of fussing, crying, etcetera.
We’re going to preface this section with an important claim: all babies have different eating patterns, habits, and preferences. That being said, here are some general findings of newborns and their eating routines.
Newborn babies tend to eat every 2 to 3 hours, or 9 to 12 times a day (in a twenty-four hour period). It is normal for newborns to consume between 1 and 2 ounces of breastmilk or formula feed, although in a baby’s first few days of life it will be much less – about half an ounce per feeding.
As expected, the guidelines increase as your child ages and grows.
At 2 months, you can expect your baby consuming between four and five ounces per feeding, which normally happens every four hours or so.
At 4 months, babies start to consume a little more – between four and six ounces per feeding. At this point, it’s difficult to track how often a baby will want to eat. It all depends on their growth. Just pay attention to the signs your newborn is sending you and you’ll be just fine.
At 6 months, your newborn may consume up to eight ounces of feed every four and a half hours.
When a baby reaches the six-month mark, that’s when most parents choose to start introducing solid foods into their diet.
If you’re overfeeding your baby, your baby will let you know. In the early stages of feeding, it may be easy to overfeed, especially if you’re doing it from a bottle – it’s a lot easier for a baby to take a bottle than to breastfeed.
But if you are overfeeding your child, you may notice the following symptoms:
Short answer: Not enough.
Long answer: if your baby is hungry after a feeding, you can always give them more. Your baby will let you know if they are still hungry, or if they were unsatisfied by the amount that they were fed. Babies need to learn how to understand their own digestive system and acknowledge when they’ve had enough to eat.
If you’re concerned that your baby is eating too much, sit down with your family doctor. They will be able to best advise you on what’s going on with your newborn. Sometimes, babies need pacifiers or other similar devices so that they can suck out of habit, or for comfort reasons.
Take note of how many times a day your baby’s diaper needs to be changed. This will tell you all you need to know.
When a baby is firstborn, they should need their diapers changed twice or three times a day. After about a week or so, they should be going to the bathroom around five or six times in one day.
If their stools appear discolored in any way, or if you’re noticing orange, crystal-like formations on the poop, your baby is likely not getting the nutrients it needs.
If you’re hyper concerned about the amount of food your baby is taking in, it’s always best to seek medical attention.
That brings me to my next point – attending regular check-ups with your family doctor is one of the best ways to chart your baby’s healthy development. Your doctor will likely assign you a growth chart and continually check his or her weight. If your child is hitting all the right numbers, they’re probably doing just fine.
Remember, for any other questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to go straight to your pediatrician.
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