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How Often Should a Newborn Eat?

by Dana Tuffelmire

It doesn't take long to realize that feeding a newborn is a round-the-clock commitment. Most newborns need eight to 12 feedings a day — about one feeding every two to three hours, notes MayoClinic.com. When it comes to how much your newborn should eat at a feeding, if she stops sucking, closes her mouth, or turns away from the nipple or bottle, she might be full — or just taking a break. You can try burping your newborn or just waiting a minute or two to see if she wants to resume feeding. Although there isn't a guidebook to follow or a set of rules that applies to every newborn, after a week or two, you'll learn your newborn's cues to let you know when she's hungry and when she's had enough to eat.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a healthy choice for your infant, recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for its nutritional and emotional benefits. However, a breastfeeding mom often feels like a 24-hour, all-you-can-eat buffet. Babies digest breast milk easier than formula, causing them to feel hungrier more often. Feed your newborn during his first few weeks on demand, which could be anywhere from 1 1/2 to 3 hours, to help establish your milk supply. After a week or two, your newborn may settle into a more regular feeding schedule, eating every two to four hours. Keep in mind that your newborn should not go more than 4 hours without eating, according to the KidsHealth website.

Formula

If you choose formula for your newborn, it might take a week or two to determine how much and how often you should feed him. An average newborn consumes about 1 1/2 to 3 ounces of formula every two or three hours, according to the KidsHealth website. If you pre-make bottles of formula for the day, refrigerate them immediately after mixing and throw away any formula that you mix but don't use after 24 hours. As your infant grows, he will typically take more at each feeding and go longer between feedings.

Hunger Signs

Since your baby can't tell you when he's hungry, look for early signs of hunger, such as rooting around your breasts, sucking his fingers or hands, sticking out his tongue and kicking his legs and squirming, notes the La Leche League International website. Fussing and crying are later hunger cues. Keep in mind that a calm infant feeds better and more easily than a frantic one. Instead of watching the clock or sticking to a strict feeding schedule, trust your baby to let you know when he's ready for his next meal.

Considerations

It's not uncommon for parents to worry about the amount or frequency of their newborn's meals. In most cases, parents can relax and know their baby will happily determine how much and how often he needs to eat. Your baby's diapers can indicate whether he's getting enough nutrition. An average newborn will have about six or more wet diapers each day and three or four bowel movements per day, according to HealthyChildren.org, a website of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Bring your baby to all of his scheduled doctor appointments during to ensure he is gaining weight at a normal rate. Also if you have any feeding concerns, consult your pediatrician at any time.

About the Author

Dana Tuffelmire has been writing for DMS for three years. She taught elementary school for seven years and earned a master’s of education degree with a specialization in literacy. She is currently a stay-at-home mom to two sons. Her dream is to one day write a children's book.

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