As a new parent, it can be hard to know exactly how much your newborn should be eating. Let’s be honest, most things are hard as a new parent, but proper feeding is one thing you definitely want to get right. Whether you’re breastfeeding or formula feeding your newborn, the quick answer to how often you should feed your baby is annoyingly simple: whenever the baby seems hungry. As for when you should stop feeding them? When they seem full. We told you it was annoying.
Those are the answers you’ll get from Google and many baby experts, but of course, there’s more to it than that. It’ll make your life a lot easier if you figure out how many ounces of milk work best for your baby for the average feeding, then stick with that general number until they outgrow it. There will be times when your little one is hungrier or less hungry than usual, which is totally normal. It’s also important to know what to look for if they’ve been overfed and how to watch for feeding cues that signal when they’re hungry and full. We discuss all that below, but first, let’s talk about feeding cues.
Newborn babies are basically tiny human blobs that can’t do much for themselves, but if you pay attention, they’re pretty good at letting you know when they’re hungry. Here are some cues to look for:
- Licking lips
- Sticking tongue out
- Rooting (moving jaw and mouth or head in search of breast)
- Putting their fist to mouth repeatedly
- Opening mouth
- Sucking on anything and everything
Babies cry for many reasons, but if they’re crying because they’re hungry, that’s a sign they’re in distress, and it may be harder to get them to settle down and latch. This is probably easier said than done, but if you feed your baby before they get too upset, you’re less likely to have a hangry baby who’s just straight up pissed. (Relatable.) So, if you can, keep an eye out for their hunger cues to stay ahead of the drama.
How often do newborns eat?
Every baby is different, so how often you feed your newborn depends on their needs. During the first few days, your baby may want to eat every one to three hours. This may seem like a lot, and it is — especially when all you want to do is sleep for longer than two hours at a time. But it’s necessary to give them the nutrition their tiny bodies need, and it also gives them practice sucking and swallowing the milk. Plus, frequent feedings help increase your milk supply.
Over the first few weeks and months, the time between feedings will get longer — typically your baby will want to eat every two to four hours. Some babies may go through spurts of cluster feedings, where they eat as often as every hour to ensure their bellies are full, and some may sleep longer and only eat every four to five hours. Babies typically eat what they want and stop when they’re done.
How many ounces of breastmilk should a newborn eat?
For breastfeeding mamas, check out the chart below to determine how much to nurse your baby based on their weight. If your baby gives you differing cues, then follow those. But here are the general guidelines.
|5 lbs||12 oz|
|6 lbs||14 oz|
|7 lbs||17 oz|
|8 lbs||19 oz|
|9 lbs||22 oz|
|10 lbs||24 oz|
|11 lbs||26 oz|
|12 lbs||29 oz|
|13 lbs||31 oz|
|14 lbs||34 oz|
How many ounces of formula should a newborn eat?
If you’re feeding your baby formula, the below chart tells you the common number of feedings 1 to 5-month-olds receive, as well as how many ounces. Always check with your pediatrician if you’re unsure.
|Age||Amount of formula per feeding||Number of feedings per 24 hours|
|1 month||2 to 4 ounces||six to eight|
|2 months||5 to 6 ounces||five to six|
|3 to 5 months||6 to 7 ounces||five to six|
Signs Your Baby is Full
Newborns usually won’t keep eating if they’re full, so it’s important not to force the breast or bottle if they’re showing you signs that they’re done eating. Signs include closing their mouth and letting go or turning their head away from the breast or bottle. Suckling will slow down with a looser latch and longer pauses. They’ll appear relaxed, content and might even have floppy arms, open palms, and a loosey-goosey body. They might even fall asleep when they’re full — which is basically what most grown-ups wish they could do.
If you overfeed your baby, they may swallow more air, which might lead to a gassy and upset belly. An overfed baby may also spit up more than usual and have loose poop (looser than the usual liquidy baby poop).
Your pediatrician or lactation specialist will be able to guide you through breastfeeding your newborn, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help.