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Tips for new parents: Feeding your newborn

Newborn feeding picture

How often and how much should your baby eat?


One of the most common questions new parents have is how often their baby should be fed. The best answer is surprisingly simple: in general, babies should be fed whenever they are hungry.

 

How do I know when my baby is hungry?


For babies born prematurely or with certain medical conditions, it's best to feed at the feeding times recommended by your paediatrician. But for most healthy, full-term babies, parents can watch their baby instead of watching the clock for signs of hunger. This is known as demand feeding or responsive feeding.

Signs of hunger

A hungry baby often cries. But it is best to watch for signs of hunger before your baby starts crying, which is a late sign of hunger and can make it difficult for your baby to calm down and eat.

Other typical hunger cues include:

Lip smacking

Tongue thrusting out

Search reflex (moving the jaw and mouth or head in search of the breast)

Repeatedly putting your hand in your mouth

Opening the mouth

Irritability

Sucking on anything they can find

However, it is important to realise that every time your baby cries or sucks it is not necessarily because he is hungry. Babies suck not only because they are hungry, but also for comfort; at first it may be difficult for parents to recognise the difference. Sometimes your baby just needs a cuddle or a nappy change.

General guidelines for feeding your baby


It is important to keep in mind that all babies are different, some prefer to feed more often, and others take more than one feed and go longer between feedings. However, most babies drink more or go longer between feedings as they get older and their stomachs can hold more milk:

Most newborns eat every 2 to 3 hours, or 8 to 12 times every 24 hours. Babies may take a half ounce (15 mL) at a time during the first day or two of life, but after that they will usually take 1 to 2 ounces (30 to 60 mL) each feeding. This amount increases to 2 to 3 ounces (60 to 89 mL) at 2 weeks of age.

At about 2 months of age, infants usually take 4 to 5 ounces (118 to 148 mL) at a time for 3 to 4 hours.

At 4 months of age, babies usually drink 4 to 6 ounces (118 to 177 mL) at a time.

By 6 months of age, babies may be drinking up to 8 ounces (237 mL) every 4 to 5 hours.

Most babies will increase the amount of formula they take by an average of 1 ounce (30 mL) per month before leveling off at about 7 to 8 ounces (207 to 237 mL) per feeding Solid foods should be started at about 6 months of age.

 

How do I know if my baby is getting enough to eat?


Daily nappies
A newborn's nappy is a good indicator of whether or not he or she is getting enough to eat. In the first few days after birth, a baby should have 2 to 3 wet diapers per day. After the first 4 to 5 days, a baby should have at least 5 to 6 wet diapers per day. The frequency of bowel movements is more variable and depends on whether the baby is breastfed or formula fed.

Growth charts
During regular health check-ups, your paediatrician will check your baby's weight and record it on a growth chart. Your baby's progress on the growth chart is one way to tell whether or not your baby is getting enough to eat. Babies who stay in healthy growth percentile ranges are probably getting the right amount of food each time they eat

Problems gaining weight?


Most babies double their birth weight by 5 months of age and triple it by their first birthday. If your baby is having trouble gaining weight, don't wait too long between feedings, even if it means waking your baby. Be sure to talk to your pediatrician about how often and how much to feed your baby.

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