It’s a feeling of such pride and joy when you hold and feed your precious newborn for the first time.
It can be daunting too, as you realize you’re now solely responsible for caring for this tiny human being.
It’s completely normal for parents to have lots of questions about their little one.
‘How much and how often should I feed my baby?’ is one of the most commonly asked questions.
Here, we’ll answer this question and others.
How often do newborns feed?
Most babies feed about 8-12 times on average, over a 24-hour period. Lots of new parents expect this means their baby will feed every two to three hours.
This isn’t quite the case for a newborn.
Over a 24-hour period, there might be times when your infant feeds more or less often than every 2-3 hours. This is completely normal.
Should you feed your baby every 2 hours?
Babies find comfort from sucking and being close to you. When they’re awake, it’s common for them to want to feed frequently.
If you’re breastfeeding, this is your baby’s clever way of telling your body how much breast milk it needs to make to keep her satisfied.
Rather than follow a timed schedule, you should feed when your baby is hungry and is showing signs of hunger (hunger cues). This is called demand feeding, and it means your baby’s needs are being met.
When it comes to feeding, always watch your little one, and not the clock.
Feeding schedules can be detrimental to breastfeeding.
How often should a newborn feed on formula?
Every baby is different, so for formula-fed babies, there’s no exact number of feeds per day that will suit all babies.
It’s common for babies to feed 8-12 times a day (24 hours) for about the first month. This might vary between babies and can even differ from day to day for one baby.
That’s why it’s more important to watch your baby rather than to schedule feeds, even when you are formula feeding.
In the early days, it can be hard for new parents to work out exactly what their baby’s trying to tell them.
Some parents assume an infant will just cry if she’s hungry. This is one of your baby’s hunger cues but it’s a very late sign of hunger.
If you’re having trouble determining when your infant is showing signs of hunger, you can read Baby Hunger Cues – How To Tell If Your Baby Is Hungry
Can I feed my baby too often?
If you’re breastfeeding, you can’t feed your little one too often. Babies breastfeed for a number of reasons, and hunger is just one of them.
How much and how often to breastfeed depends on your baby, not how many times a day you think you should feed her.
When your infant breastfeeds, she uses over 40 different muscles in her face, mouth, and jaw. If she’s full, or no longer needs to feed for comfort, she’ll simply stop.
That means it’s not possible to overfeed a breastfed baby.
You might find your breastfed infant likes to stay attached to your breast even when she’s finished actually feeding.
You’ll probably notice the rhythmic suck–swallow–breathe pattern changes to an occasional suck, or what’s sometimes called flutter sucking.
This is normal behavior. Your baby is enjoying a warm cuddle and a close bond with you.
Bottle feeding, however, is different from breastfeeding. It is possible to overfeed a bottle-fed baby.
Unlike breastfeeding, bottle feeding requires minimal use of facial muscles. There is also a suck and swallow reflex related to bottle feeding, which doesn’t occur with breastfeeding.
When a bottle teat is placed in your baby’s mouth, it initiates the suck reflex. In order to protect the airways, babies will then swallow, creating a cycle of suck and swallow until the bottle is taken away.
Very small babies don’t have the ability to turn their heads or push the bottle away, to make it clear they’ve had enough.
This is why it is important to pace bottle feeds, so your baby can stop when she’s full.
It’s perfectly ok if your little one doesn’t finish the bottle every time.
You can read more about how bottle feeding your baby, including paced bottle feeding and following your baby’s feeding cues, in Bottle Nursing – 6 Steps To Better Bottle-Feeding.
Why does my newborn want to feed every hour?
In the first few weeks after birth, frequent feeding helps your milk supply to become established.
At each feed, an amazing conversation is happening between your baby and your body. Your breasts respond by making more milk.
Newborn infants also have tiny tummies. Babies might take in only half an ounce per feeding for the first day or two of life.
Feeds every hour will generally stretch out once your baby’s tummy grows.
Some babies need frequent meals to grow and thrive; others want the closeness and comfort of their mother’s body.
Will a newborn stop eating when full?
Newborn babies come with an inbuilt self-regulation system for feeding. They eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full.
Signs that your baby is full include:
- Releasing the nipple or bottle teat
- Not swallowing or sucking, and milk dripping outside of the mouth
- Falling asleep.
Sometimes babies fall asleep at the breast – and why not, when it’s so cozy?
Sometimes, they are still actively sucking. At other times, the sucking slows right down, but they are still very much attached to the nipple.
If your baby’s still hungry, she’ll wake up and start feeding again if you try to get her to release.
Should I wake my baby to feed?
You might have heard the old saying, ‘Never wake a sleeping baby’, and perhaps you’re terrified of doing that.
Many new parents worry that if they wake their sleeping baby, they will create ‘bad habits’ and their once contented baby will start to wake frequently for feeds, or won’t get enough sleep.
Although most babies wake to feed of their own accord, in some cases parents should wake babies to feed them.
There are several reasons your child might be extra sleepy, including:
- Any drugs used in labor
- Pre-term birth
- Medical complications that affect your baby’s growth and development.
If you’re worried about your baby’s feeding, there are some indicators to reassure you.
Your baby is getting enough to eat if she is:
- Gaining weight at regular intervals
- Growing sufficiently – in length and head circumference
- Producing consistent, sufficient nappy output (poo & wee), or at least six wet nappies a day.
These signs show your infant is thriving and it’s probably ok to let her sleep for longer stretches.
If your baby’s not eating enough, you should wake and feed her every 3-4 hours, to make sure she is getting enough milk. This also applies to formula feeding.
You can read more about waking babies for night feeds in 7 Things You Need To Know About Waking Your Baby For Feed.
How often should a newborn feed at night?
Newly born babies don’t know the difference between day and night, so feeding 8-12 times over 24 hours happens around the clock.
This ensures the baby is getting enough to eat in 24 hours, which includes nighttime.
In the first few days, it becomes obvious babies have their days and nights mixed up. Lots of babies have their longest stretch of sleep during daylight hours, then want to nurse more frequently at night.
This is due to your newborn’s irregular circadian rhythm.
Unlike adults, babies don’t have a regular sleep-wake cycle. A circadian rhythm takes time to develop in a baby and is related to normal levels of cortisol and melatonin.
Breast milk contains an amino acid called tryptophan, which the body uses to make melatonin. Melatonin helps us to fall asleep and stay asleep; newborns, however, don’t make this for themselves for some time.
Nighttime breast milk is high in tryptophan and helps babies develop their own circadian rhythm.
Nighttime Breastfeeding – 7 Reasons Why It’s So Important has more information.
When can babies go 4 hours between feedings?
As mentioned earlier, the time between feedings depends on your baby’s health, growth, and needs. Newborns need more frequent feedings, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that, in the first two weeks, you wake and feed your baby if she sleeps more than four hours at a time.
How often should a 2 month old breastfeed?
At 2 months old, your baby’s diet is still exclusively breast milk or formula.
It’s important your baby is getting enough feeds – about 8-12 every 24 hours.
If you’re breastfeeding, it might have become a bit easier by 2 months, and your baby could be taking more milk at each feeding.
Although you’re still feeding every 2-3 hours, your baby feeding has also become a little more efficient. This usually results in shorter feeding sessions and longer spaces between feeds.
Keep in mind it’s still normal for your baby to breastfeed, not only to satisfy her hunger but for comfort too, so a feeding schedule isn’t necessary.
How often should a 4 month old breastfeed?
By 4 months, your child is getting enough milk and much faster. She’s much more efficient at draining your breasts at a greater speed than before.
Although at 4 months you still need to breastfeed your baby frequently, your baby’s increased speed while feeding means there’s more time between each feed.
A typical 4-month-old baby will feed at least every 3 hours, but this differs from baby to baby.
Lots of exclusively breastfed babies cluster feed in the late afternoon and evening, before sleeping for a longer stretch for the first part of the night.
It’s still normal for your baby to wake up for a feed a couple of times a night after 4 months.
How often should a 6 month old breastfeed?
By the time your child is 6 months old, you might be thinking ‘Where has the time gone?’
About now could be the time your baby experiences her first taste of solid foods.
Although introducing solid foods to your baby for the first time is officially the first step towards weaning, breast milk is still the most important part of her diet until she reaches 12 months of age.
At this stage, food is more about experimentation than replacing breastfeeds. Around this time your baby will probably still want (and need) to be breastfed regularly to meet all her nutritional needs.