With parenthood comes a ton of questions – and when it comes to feeding, the questions become all the more pertinent. Establishing a feeding routine is not very straightforward, especially when it comes to newborns.
Fretting if the baby is drinking enough or if she’s had too much is an all too normal phase in the special journey we call parenthood. After all, a new human being is totally dependent on our care.
You hear horror stories about a baby’s first few days on planet earth being quite rocky because of feeding – a mom’s non-existent milk supply leaves the baby weak, which is awfully scary to experience.
To make it easy for you, here’s all you need to know on the subject of how much your newborn should be eating. Whether you’re opting for breast milk or formula, baby’s first year is a time of growth. As a matter of fact, your tiny newborn will triple in size by the time she’s one!
This article will go over how much and how often newborns should be eating, the cues to look out for, expert guidelines on feeding, and how to ensure that your baby is not over or under-eating.
How Much Should A Newborn Eat?
Newborns, especially in their first few days, don’t do much. They sleep, eat, poo and repeat. Their stomachs are tiny too: this Better Doctor visual gives you a clearer picture of the size of your baby’s stomach.
Still, your baby is growing by the minute and hence needs all the nutrients she can get.
Growing accustomed to your baby’s needs is a learning curve, so here’s what you need to know about the amounts of breast-milk or formula they need.
How Much Breastmilk Should A Newborn Eat?
The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding on demand. When all goes well, breastfeeding meets your baby’s exact needs.
When the baby is at the breast, the production of the right amount of milk needed is stimulated. For instance, when baby is experiencing a growth spurt, she feeds more, leading to an increase in your body’s milk production.
For a more detailed breakdown, this is how much your baby should be drinking:
1) Day Of Birth
Babies don’t eat much on their first day earth-side.
It’s possible that baby is as tired as you are after birth, and spends most of her time sleeping.
On average, in their first 24 hours, breastfed newborns eat around eight times and have three wet or dirty diapers.
Until your milk comes in, your baby is drinking colostrum – your very own liquid gold.
Colostrum is packed with nutrients and calories – even small amounts adequately meet your baby’s needs.
Whilst every baby is different, on average, a newborn will only drink ½ ounce in their first 24 hours.
2) 0-1 Months
In their first month, newborns should be breastfeeding between 8-12 times per day.
This helps establish your supply. Breastfed babies eat more often than formula fed babies as breast-milk is easier to digest.
3) 1-2 Months
By the time your baby turns two months, the feeding frequency decreases to 7 – 9 times per day.
As noted by KidsHealth, as newborns get older, they will tend to nurse less. Still, at this age, newborns should not go more than 4 hours without feeding, including during night time.
You should be counting the intervals at which your baby is feeding from the start of the feed until it’s time for their next session.
If it feels like you’re nursing all day, then – well – you probably are, but this is completely normal in the first weeks.
4) 4-6 Months
Baby should be eating 4 – 6 times per day.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months, followed by breastfeeding complemented by food after this age.
5) 7 Months
Baby should be eating 3 – 5 times per day.
6) 8-12 Months
By now, your baby should also be eating cereal, fruits and vegetables. At eight months, they should also still be breastfeeding between 3 – 5 times a day.
As your baby grows, she will be able to get milk more efficiently – reducing the time needed for each breastfeeding session.
As noted by Verywell Family, half the calories needed by your baby should still come from breastmilk.
At 12 months, some babies breastfeed very often, with some moms noting that it feels just like the newborn period. Other one-year-olds breastfeed only once or twice a day, with days where they will breastfeed more, and others where they tend to feed less.
Typically, and as noted by What to Expect, each breastfeeding session will last 20 to 30 minutes. There will be days where your baby will eat less and other days where she will eat more.
Keep in mind that babies may want to nurse more when feeling unwell. This gives them added comfort and also serves as an immune booster. The same goes for growth spurts.
Of course, this works when your baby and your breasts establish the greatest of friendships. Taking exact measures of how much your baby is drinking when breastfeeding is easier said than done, though.
If you’re worried, head on to the next section for the signs that help you determine if your little one is eating enough.
Is My Breastfed Baby Eating Enough?
If your baby is not eating enough, she will show signs of hunger.
As pointed out by Baby Center, crying is actually a late sign by which your little angel shows she’s hungry. Breastfeeding an upset baby can be quite challenging too, so it’s best if you can identify your her hunger cues before she cries.
This video shows you what the early signs of hunger look like.
As outlined in the video, these are the signs indicating a hungry baby:
- Licking lips
- Sucking at hands, tongue, feet, or clothes
- Opening and closing her mouth
- Rooting (turning head, searching for the breast)
As a baby gets hungrier, her cues will change:
- Bobbing her head
- Frantically moving her head
If still not fed, the crying ensues! If your baby’s fed, but you’re still unsure if she’s eaten enough, look out for these:
1) Weight Gain
Your baby will very probably lose weight in the first 3 – 4 days after birth. As noted by Kelly Mom, weight loss of around 5 – 7% is completely normal; by day 5, average weight gain is 5 – 7oz per week.
2) Wet And Dirty Diapers
Wet diapers should increase to more than 6 by day 4.
Another indication is in the urine your baby is passing – this should be pale and mild smelling. Orange-looking urine is a sign of dehydration.
Your breastfed baby should also be dirtying 3 to 4 diapers a day with loose yellow stools.
3) Your Breasts
Your breasts should feel softer after nursing as your baby would have emptied some of the milk.
Signs That Breastfed Baby Is Not Eating Enough
If you’re worried that your baby is not eating enough, look out for these signs:
- Weight loss
- Not wetting enough diapers
- Small dark stools after day 5
- Dark urine
- Fussy or lethargic
- Dry mouth, eyes, skin, and hair
- Unsatisfied, even when feeding for long periods
- Your breasts remain hard after a feed
- You can’t visibly tell or hear if your baby is swallowing
In addition, these warning signs point to starvation, or, as medically known, Failure To Thrive (FTT):
- Stick-like limbs
- Small feedings
- Sucking fingers after a feed
- More frequent waking
- Inactive baby
- Bright green stools
- Persistent jaundice
- More prone to infections
- Severe weight loss and muscle wasting, known as Marasmus.
When a baby is continuously not eating enough, she may suffer from dehydration and failure to thrive. It’s very important to seek your doctor’s help if concerned about your little one’s eating.
Is My Breastfed Baby Overeating?
You can’t really overfeed an exclusively breastfed baby. The baby will push away from your breast when full and latch again when they’re hungry.
How Much And How Often Should My Formula Fed Newborn Eat?
Monitoring how much your baby is eating is easier with formula; still, it’s important to follow feeding guidelines to avoid over or under eating.
In the first few weeks, prepare 2 to 3-ounce bottles for your baby, gradually increasing the amount as you become more familiar with their eating patterns.
Here’s how much your baby should be eating when formula fed, and how often, in line with Stanford Children’s Health guidelines:
|Age||Number of ounces per feed||Number of feeds per 24 hours|
|1 month||2 – 4 ounces||6 – 8 times|
|2 months||5 – 6 ounces||5 – 6 times|
|3 – 5 months||6 – 7 ounces||5 – 6 times|
Once complemented by food:
|Age||Total ounces per day|
|4 – 6 months||28 – 32 ounces|
|7 months||30 – 32 ounces|
|8 months||30 – 32 ounces|
|9 months||30 – 32 ounces|
|10 – 12 months||24 – 30 ounces|
Is My Formula Fed Baby Still Hungry?
Crying is your baby’s last cue when hungry. It’s much better to offer the bottle whenever your little one only starts to show hunger signs; because feeding a crying baby can be quite challenging.
Why Is My Formula Fed Baby Still Hungry?
As babies grow, they increase their milk-intake. There may be days where they might seem continuously hungry. As Kids Health note, it’s possible that your baby is going through a growth spurt. This commonly occurs at:
- 7 – 14 days old
- Between 3 – 6 weeks
- 4 months
- 6 months
At this point, follow your baby’s cues and feed on demand.
Is My Formula Fed Baby Eating Enough?
It’s normal to question if your formula fed baby is eating enough. If you are concerned about this, take note of these factors as highlighted by Kids Health:
1) Number Of Wet Or Dirty Diapers
At first, you will be changing at least 6 wet and 4 dirty diapers each day. Your baby’s urine should be clear or very pale.
Contact a doctor if there are orange crystals in your baby’s diaper. Whilst not always a cause for concern, crystals can be a sign of dehydration.
If you’re concerned about your baby’s weight, contact a doctor. Regular checkups for your baby ensure that she is gaining the right amount of weight.
3) Looking Unsatisfied
Seeming unsatisfied after a complete formula feed is also a sign of under-eating.
Is My Formula Fed Baby Over-Eating?
As noted above, you cannot really overfeed a breastfed baby. But, overfeeding is possible with formula or combination feeding. These are the signs to look out for:
- Spitting up
- Pulling up legs to the abdomen
- Behavior resembling colic.
In general, it is better to give smaller amounts of formula more often rather than bigger quantities less often.
Consult your doctor if you think your baby is gaining weight way too fast. Your doctor will ask about your baby’s feeding patterns, will check their weight and growth, and will offer advice on the adjustments you may need to make.
How Much Should My Combination Fed Baby Be Eating?
Opting for both breastfeeding and formula feeding is another way of ensuring your baby gets all the needed nutrients. As noted by Verywell Family, this method of feeding is perfectly safe.
However, if there are no medical reasons which make it a must to supplement, experts recommend breastfeeding exclusively for a month before starting formula. This gives your body time to build up a healthy breast milk supply and also ensures that your baby is breastfeeding well.
There are no set rules for how much and how often your baby should be eating when combination feeding. It’s a matter of finding the right mix and schedule that works best for both you and them.
Today’s Parent suggests talking to a health professional to determine the amount of formula to use when supplementing. Regardless of the feeding method, it is generally recommended to feed your baby whenever they are hungry.
But, if your baby shows these signs, then it may be that you are overfeeding:
- Spitting up frequently
- Often fussy
- You are changing 8 or more wet diapers per day and several runny poop diapers
- Burping or passing a lot of gas
- Baby cannot sleep
- Gaining more weight than average
By the time your baby is six months old and has started eating solids, the amount of milk she needs will gradually reduce.
By then, many babies start taking breast-milk at the start and end of each day only.
Why Should I Follow Expert Feeding Guidelines?
Following guidelines helps you ensure that your baby is meeting her nutrition needs.
Still, official medical recommendations emphasize the importance of letting babies decide how much they want to eat.
As noted in Parenting Science, allowing babies to determine feed timing and length, means that they are more likely to get exactly what they need: not too little, and not too much.
Being strict with feeding schedules may interfere with the development of their own food intuitions.
Feeding guidelines are set in a way to support the best nutrition for your baby and are based on thorough studies and evidence.
Wrapping It Up
You and your baby are a team.
Whether you are breastfeeding, formula feeding, or a bit of both, what works for another mom and baby might not necessarily work for you.
It takes time to grow in sync with your baby’s unique needs – and eating guidelines are only there to help you out in the process.
Following feeding guidelines ensures that your baby is neither overeating nor undereating, and that her nutrition needs are being met.
There may be a time of trial and error until you find what works best for your little one, but once you do, feeding becomes a whole lot easier.
Trust your instinct mama, you are doing a great job!