For new moms, especially first-time moms, the question of when and how to feed their baby can be a question that’s surprisingly complicated.
After all, there’s a lot to the question. For example, how many times should you be feeding them? How long should they be feeding at a time? How do you even know they’re hungry?
Once you’ve got the hang of it, feeding time can be deceptively simple. But until then, if you find yourself asking the question of how often should a newborn eat, then you should read our handy guide.
How often should a newborn eat?
When they’re just born, your baby should be eating from 8 to 12 times per day. This is dependent on a few things, like:
How hungry your baby is. Whilst all newborn babies are hungry little things because they’re growing so much, some babies will be content with 8 or 9 feedings per day, and some will need more.
Whether they’re being fed on breast milk, formula, or both.
Breast milk is digested a little bit faster than formula, and it goes through their tiny tummies a little bit faster, which means that your breastfed baby might need feeding a little more than formula fed babies.
The easiest way of feeding your baby whenever they’re hungry. This is called On Demand feeding, and it’s what’s recommended by doctors across the world.
Basically, this means that whenever you get a sign that your baby is hungry, or when you get a feel for their feeding routines, you feed them.
On average, you’ll find that this will be from every one and a half to every three hours. As your baby gets a little older, they’re going to nurse less often as their bodies mature, stomachs get bigger and more capable of dealing with the rigors of regular feedings.
How often should my new newborn eat when breastfeeding
How do I count my feeding times?
You should count the distance between feeding times by noting the time that your baby starts feeding, rather than when they end.
Yes, this means that if you’re nursing 8 to 12 times a day, you could and should be nursing almost all of the time. This is entirely normal, and you’ll soon get used to each other’s routines. Once you’ve got the hang of baby’s feeding patterns, everything will just slot into place.
How do I tell if my baby wants to eat?
When it comes to social cues like hunger, every baby is different. They’re all tiny little people, after all, and they’re going to have adorable little quirks and idiosyncrasies.
But there are several signs that almost all babies have and a few others that are common enough to look out for, including:
- Moving their heads around, searching for something, even when you’re right there
- Opening their mouths, sticking out tongues or pursing little lips
- Putting hands, fingers or fists into their mouths
- Nuzzling against your breasts
- Moving their mouth towards you if you’re touching their cheek. (This is called the rooting reflex.)
Bear in mind that sometimes baby won’t be hungry, and could just be uncomfortable, bored or in need of a change.
It’s also good to note that crying can be a sign that your baby is hungry, but should not be used as a sign of hunger. If your baby has to cry to let you know that they are hungry, you’ve left it far too long.
How do I know when my baby is full?
Recognizing the signs that baby is full can be simple, once you know what they are. Look for things like:
- Moving away from your breast or the bottle
- Crying when you try to feed them
- Extending or flailing with their arms and legs, as if trying to escape
- Being distracted or overly interested in the world around them
- Slowing down their feeding
- Falling asleep or seeming drowsy
Remember, burping isn’t a sign of fullness. Just wind them gently, give them a little breather, then see if they want to continue to feed, or you should take a break.
How long should it take to nurse
Nursing is an art as well as a science, and it depends hugely on you and your baby. Not only that, but nursing can change massively day by day, all depending on how you and baby are feeling and what’s going on in your lives right now.
For newborns and new moms, you can expect a feeding to be anywhere up to 20 minutes, all depending on:
- How your milk supply is doing and how quick your let-down reflex is
- How fast your milk flow is in general
- How you and baby are positioned, and whether they’re latched on correctly
- Your baby’s sucking reflex and power
- Whether the baby is hungry or not really right now
- How the baby is feeling. For example, feedings in the middle of the night tend to be faster than others
When should I feed my baby during the night?
A lot of younger babies will wake during the night and let you know when they want a feed, but if they don’t, you should probably wake them every 3-4 hours and feed them anyway.
As long as you’re feeding your newborn at least once every night, you should be fine, just feed them as soon as you wake as well, to make sure.
After a few weeks, and once you’re sure that your baby is gaining weight at the proper rate, you’ll be able to relax and let them sleep a little longer, only waking when they want a feed.
How do I know if my baby is eating enough
If you’re feeding baby formula, then you know exactly how much baby is eating, because you can see what’s left in the bottle after you’re done.
Baby doesn’t have to finish the bottle every time. If there’s a little something left in there, then don’t force the baby to finish it. A little gentle encouragement is fine, but overfeeding is one of the biggest contributors to unhealthy weight gain in children.
But if you’re breastfeeding, it’s a different story. Because you can’t tell how much your baby is eating when you’re breastfeeding, it’s only natural to worry about how much milk they’re actually getting.
If you’re getting some or most of these signs, you don’t need to worry, your baby is probably fine.
- You’re feeding the standard 8 to 12 times per day, and baby seems happy and content when they’re fed, letting go and not still trying to suck.
- Breastfeeding feels good, and your breasts feel softer and less full after feeds. You might have a little bit of pain with your let down, but this won’t last long.
- Your baby is awake, alert and generally bright, especially when it’s time to feed.
- Your baby sleeps soundly and well.
- You have one or two full, wet nappies in the first couple of days, then half a dozen every day after that.
- After a few days, your baby poos two or three times per day.
- You can hear, see and feel baby latched on, sucking and swallowing, without struggling or getting frustrated.
- Baby feeds when they want to, taking time to relax whilst feeding, before latching back on.
Remember, a good rule of thumb is that if your baby is gaining weight at the rate they should, they’re eating enough.
Signs that your baby might not be getting enough to eat are:
- Dissatisfied or upset after feeding, or trying to continue to feed
- Constant signs that they might be hungry
- Lower numbers of wet or poopy diapers
- Being generally grumpy or miserable
- A lack of good weight gain
I’m worried I might have low milk supply
Don’t worry. You’re not the only one.
It’s natural for a lot of moms to worry about having a low milk supply. First-time moms will obviously be concerned about how they’re doing, and breastfeeding can feel different every time you do it. Your body will be in a different place than the last time you breastfed, so you might not get the response you’re expecting.
The rule to know is that if your baby is gaining weight at the rate they should, then you don’t have a low milk supply, but if you’re still concerned, there are two things you can do.
- The first is to read our guide on having a low milk supply, and what you can do about it.
- The second is always to speak to your pediatrician. If there’s something wrong, they’ll be able to point you towards a specialist who can help.
Like we said earlier, knowing your baby goes a huge way to understanding how and when to feed.
How often should a newborn eat? It depends on the newborn, but at least 8 to 12 times a day is the rule, and it’s one you should follow.
As always, if you’re concerned about your baby’s wellbeing, contact your healthcare provider immediately, but we know that you’re going to do great. After all, you’re here, learning how to be the best mom you can be!