How often should I feed my newborn?

As a new parent, you hear terms like “feed on demand” or “never wake a sleeping baby”. Then you are told to feed the baby every 3 or 4 hours. It can all be quite confusing. Registered midwife Pippa Hime advises on how often you should be feeding your newborn.

In the first 24-48 hours after birth, your baby (if you are breastfeeding), will be receiving small amounts of colostrum. A newborn baby’s stomach capacity is small, and the small, frequent volume of calorie rich colostrum is perfect to meet the needs of your baby. As a result, your baby may want to feed every 2-3 hours.

As the volume in the breast increases so does your baby’s stomach capacity and your baby will move to needing to feed every 3-4 hours.

ALSO SEE: 5 common breast milk supply myths busted

How often should I breastfeed my newborn?

A newborn baby can often be very drowsy in the first few days following birth. They are tired from the delivery and can be sleepy as a result of any pain medication you may have had or are currently taking. Many new moms fall into the trap of waiting for the demand before feeding. This isn’t exactly the case and it is important to note that newborn babies should not go longer than 3 hours during the day and 4 hours at night between feeds. This is calculated from the start of a feed to the start of the next feed. So, if your baby starts feeding at 6am then the next feed is due at 9am. This is the case for the first 1-2 weeks as your milk supply establishes, and baby starts to regain his birthweight.

Once your milk is properly flowing and baby is starting to gain weight, you can stretch out your night feed to be on demand. If baby wants to feed more than ever 2-3 hours, then you may wonder if your baby is getting enough milk.

ALSO SEE: 5 ways to tell if your baby is getting enough milk

Does it work the same if I am formula feeding?

If you are formula feeding you will need to follow the same schedule of 3-4 hourly feedings making sure to wake your baby in the first week if he or she is super sleepy. Once they are gaining weight nicely you will find most formula-fed babies will feed every 4 hours and go for a slightly longer sleep at night.

It is important to always remember that every baby is different. Be sure to adapt your feeding schedule to your baby’s needs. Some feeds will be closer together and some will stretch out.

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