Is my baby eating enough?

No matter what stage your child is in, it seems like the one main thing parents often worry about with their children is eating. Are they eating enough? Are they eating too much? Are they getting enough nutritional benefit from the foods they are eating? We have the information you need for feeding your newborn baby to help put some of those worries behind.

Infant Feeding (0-6 months)

Feeding your newborn baby often brings many concerns to mind. Your baby can’t verbally express when he’s hungry so you are basically just going on cues and guessing. Regardless of whether you are breastfeeding or formula feeding we have answers to common feeding issues.

If you are unsure whether your baby’s cries are hunger cries or for something else, you can go by these cues that indicate baby may be hungry:

  • Sucks on his fingers
  • Smacks lips
  • Fussing
  • Rooting
  • Crying

How often your baby will eat varies. In newborns from birth to 3 months will typically eat every 3-4 hours. Some babies are capable of going longer periods between feedings while others will eat every 2 hours on the dot. It all depends on your baby. Some babies may sleep through a feeding and many new parents believe they should wake their baby up to feed them. The truth is it is perfectly fine to let them sleep through a feeding as long as they are steadily gaining weight. With my first child, I sometimes had to change her diaper in between her feeding to wake her up because she would always fall asleep during her feeding.

For breastfed babies, you usually just nurse on demand which is on no set schedule; however many breastfeeding moms can put their baby on a feeding schedule (i.e. feeding every 3 hours). Just know that breastfed babies will nurse more effectively if it’s on their own terms when they show early signs of hunger which can be better for milk production – a baby that is not yet hungry and put to the breast will not suckle as forcefully therefore not drawing out as much milk which can have an impact on your supply.

The recommendation is to nurse at least 8-12 times a day.

The recommendation for feeding your newborn baby when nursing is 15-20 minutes on each side their first month then gradually 10-15 minutes or less once breastfeeding is well established. For formula-fed babies, they should take 8-10 feedings or approximately 16-28 oz in a day. That includes night feedings. Once babies begin sleeping through the night they will begin to take more per feeding and less frequently.

Regardless of whether you are breastfeeding or formula-feeding, some babies will experience a phase of cluster feeding during a growth spurt –something I went through with my second child that I hadn’t experienced with my first. Even after a feeding schedule has been established, it is not uncommon for a baby to suddenly want to eat constantly for a period of time. It is more common with breastfed babies, although some formula-fed babies may experience this as well.  Keep in mind that it is just a phase that they will soon outgrow and feed your baby when he or she is hungry.

Your pediatrician can determine if your baby is eating enough by their weight patterns. Some babies (like mine) who may have been born prematurely or just small are behind in percentile on the growth chart and may not quite catch up to the ideal weight for their age until much later (if at all). As long as they are continuously gaining weight, your baby is eating sufficiently.

Another way to tell if your baby is eating enough is by their diapers. A newborn baby less than 3 months old should produce at least 6 wet diapers a day and regular bowel movements. The number of stool counts in breastfed and formula-fed babies will vary but generally about 3 dirty diapers a day. What’s more important is to focus on the appearance. As long as it’s not black, tarry, or hard and round you should be fine.

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