Is My Newborn Eating Enough?
Regardless of whether you are breastfeeding, formula-feeding, or using a combination of both, figuring out how much your baby should eat can feel a little overwhelming. You may worry that your baby is not eating enough, especially if you're nursing. So much of this initial time with your baby is spent developing a relationship and trusting not only your own body but also your baby's. Thanks so much to Very Well Family for this wonderful guide.
What Does Baby Need When They Are 0-3 Months Old
When you bring your baby home from the hospital, their primary needs are to be fed when hungry, have their diapers changed consistently, have their umbilical cord cared for, be put to sleep on their back, and, most importantly, to be cuddled and nurtured by their parent or parents. According to Dr. Danielle Roberts, a pediatrician in Zanesville, Ohio, this time period in a baby's life can feel a little rough as everyone adapts, but it goes by quickly.
For instance, a breastfed infant will nurse every 2 to 3 hours or 8 to 12 times per day, Dr. Roberts says. All of this eating is designed to help them meet some important growth milestones.
Most babies will experience a 5 to 10% weight loss during the first week of life. This is completely normal. If your baby loses more than this, your doctor will likely give you some special instructions for feeding. But, around the second week, most babies should return to their birth weight. Your pediatrician will be looking for this weight gain at their first well-visit. These changes in weight are one of the reasons well visits are more frequent during the first month of life.
After that, a gain of about an ounce a day is normal. Again, your pediatrician will likely monitor your baby's weight gain each time you're in their office and help determine what is normal for your baby. At around 3 months, your baby can be expected to gain around a pound a month. In those first few weeks, be sure that you are responding to hunger cues and feeding your baby regularly around the clock.
Once your baby is growing consistently, Dr. Roberts says that your medical provider may indicate that it's no longer necessary to wake your baby for feedings at night and can go to an on-demand schedule.
"This is very exciting news to tell families they may get longer stretches of sleep," she says. "Again, though, it's important to keep up with your routine visits to make sure your infant is still growing well on their on-demand feeding regimen as well."
How Much to Feed a Newborn
According to Dr. Roberts, newborns have tiny stomachs that are no bigger than a ping pong ball, so they cannot hold much milk at one time. Over time, their stomachs will stretch to accommodate larger volumes.
Remember, human milk changes to meet a baby's changing nutritional needs, so it may be more concentrated with fat in the beginning. For this reason, it's important for an infant to try to nurse on each breast during every feeding session in order to consume the most amount of breast milk at each nursing session. The overall goal at this age is to consume 120kcal/kg/day (or 55 kilocalories per pound of weight per every 24 hours) to support optimal nutrition at this age, Dr. Roberts says.
Signs Your Baby Is Hungry
Learning your baby's hunger cues helps you determine when they are ready to eat (or know if they need more food). Plus, recognizing hunger cues can help you get your baby fed before they start crying. Here are some signs that your baby might be ready to eat:
Showing signs of the rooting reflex (turning their head to the side with their mouth open)
Licking their lips
Sucking on their hands or anything within reach like your arm or shirt
Nuzzling against your breasts
Opening their mouth
Sticking their tongue out
Licking their lips
Being fussy or crying
If you notice these signs you may want to offer your baby the breast or a bottle, depending on your preferred method of feeding.
Baby Feeding Goals for 0-3 Months Old
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) indicates that on average, a baby this age will consume about 2.5 ounces of formula a day for every pound of their body weight while breastfed babies might consume about 2 to 2.5 ounces of expressed milk for every pound of their body weight.2 Additionally, your baby will likely eat 8 to 10 times in a 24-hour period.
As they get older both breastfed and formula-fed babies are typically satisfied with about 2 to 4 ounces of formula or expressed breast milk per feeding. Watch for your baby's hunger cues and work with your pediatrician to determine the total number of ounces in a day's time your baby should be eating. Here are some recommendations based on the AAP guidelines.
You also can estimate how much milk your baby needs based on their age:
Newborns: 2 to 3 ounces per formula feeding or expressed breast milk per feeding
1 month old: 3 to 4 ounces per formula feeding or 2 to 4 ounces of expressed breast milk per feeding
2 months old: 4 to 5 ounces per formula feeding or 3 to 4 ounces of expressed breast milk per feeding
3 months old: 4 to 5 ounces per formula feeding or 3 to 4 ounces of expressed breast milk per feeding
According to Dr. Roberts, the important thing to remember is that every child is different. The numbers in the above charts are meant only as guidelines.
In general, try to feed your baby when they're hungry and allow them to stop when they are full. As tempting as it may be to get them to finish those that last ounce, try not to force it. Babies are very good at regulating how much food they need to eat. As you get to know your little one, you will come to know what to expect in terms of feeding.
How to Know if Your Baby Is Getting Enough to Eat
Regardless of how your baby is fed, they will appear satiated after eating if they have gotten the proper amount of food. If they are not getting enough, their mood will be your first sign that they are still hungry.
Another way to tell if your baby is satisfied is to track the number of wet diapers they have in a 24-hour period. Infants greater than 1 week old should have at least six wet diapers per day and the urine should be pale yellow.
Paying attention to your baby's weight gain also can help you determine if they have been fed enough. The average weight gain for newborns is about 4 to 7 ounces per week. If your baby is gaining less, they may not be getting enough to eat. Your pediatrician can help you determine if your child's weight gain and growth are on track or something to be concerned about.
If you think that your baby may not be eating enough or they are not producing enough wet diapers, contact your pediatrician right away. They can determine if there is an underlying issue and help you figure out a healthy feeding plan for your baby.
Ultimately, your child's well-child visits with their pediatrician will be the best indicator that your baby is eating and growing at a rate that is right for them. And, if you are very concerned, be sure to reach out to your baby's doctor.
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-The Baby Whisperers