Understanding Newborn Feeding Schedules
When you first delivery a baby, and for the weeks afterwards, it is often difficult to know how often to feed your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you breastfeed exclusively for at least the first six months. Even if you are going to bottle feed, babies do not need anything other than milk. They don't need water, juice or other fluids and should not be introduced to solids until 4-6 months. With this said, how do you know when to feed your baby and how do you know that they are eating enough?
Feed on Demand
Most newborns need to eat approximately every two to three hours. By the time the baby is two to three months old, this will decrease to every three or four hours. With time, your baby will learn to drink quickly and to take less time to drink more milk. In the beginning, however, it make take some time for him to get used to sucking and getting the milk he needs.
Follow Cues to Hunger
Your baby will give you cues that he is hungry. If he's stirring or stretching, sucking and moving his lips, he is probably ready to eat. If you miss these signs, then he may begin to fuss and to cry. Obviously, he doesn't need to eat every time that he cries. He may, instead, need a diaper change, a burb, or some cuddling. Keep track of the length of time between feedings. If he shows these signs and it's been about two hours since you've fed him, then he's probably ready to be breastfed or bottle fed again.
When Is Baby Done?
Your baby will usually let you know when he's done eating. He'll stop sucking and move away from the breast or the bottle. It's possible, however, that he's just getting air or taking a break. Try to burp your baby and to give him a few minutes to relax. Then try to feed him again. If he's done and full, he'll continue to move away from the milk and to keep his mouth closed. He may even become fussy if you try to feed him more.
Change - All the Time!
For those of you who like routine, having a baby may come as a shock. While he eats every two hours one week and seems to take ten minutes to eat, he may eat every three hours the next week and take 20 minutes. Eventually, your baby's eating patterns will become more routine. Babies also have growth spurts, usually around 10-14 days after birth, around three weeks, six weeks, three months and six months. During these times, your baby may want to eat more and to eat more often. After a few days, your baby should move back to a more predictable pattern.
With time, you'll become familiar with your baby's eating patterns and with the messages that he gives to you about his hunger. Don't worry too much about how often he eats and how much he eats. As long as your baby is gaining weight at a steady pace and content between feedings, chances are that he's doing fine. Check in with your pediatrician at regular intervals to monitor his progress and his growth. Enjoy this time with your baby and try to view feeding time as a time to slow down, relax and enjoy your new baby.