Eating when you are hungry is an innate behavior. It is not something that you need to be taught. However, as a new parent, feeding can be daunting or even, frustrating to know when and how much your child is supposed to eat.
Newborn to one-year feedings
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), babies should be fed whenever they seem hungry. Hunger cues include licking lips, sticking tongue out, rooting (moving head in search of breast), putting their hand to mouth, opening mouth, fussiness or sucking on objects.
“Breastfeeding a newborn is variable,” said Kendal Stockel, board-certified lactation consultant with Marshfield Clinic Health System. “We always feed infants on demand when they want it. They may go anywhere from 10 minutes to four hours between feedings. As they get older, the time between feedings will lengthen and the amount of time they spend at breast will shorten as they become more efficient.”
The AAP general guidance states that most newborns eat every 2 to 3 hours, or eight to 12 times every 24 hours. Babies might only take in half ounce per feeding for the first day or two of life, but after that will usually drink 1 to 2 ounces at each feeding. This amount increases to 2 to 3 ounces by two weeks of age. At about 2 months of age, babies usually take 4 to 5 ounces per feeding every 3 to 4 hours. For 4 months, babies usually take 4 to 6 ounces per feeding. At 6 months, babies may be taking up to 8 ounces every 4 to 5 hours. It is around 6 months when children can start to transition to solid foods.
“The biggest thing is feeding your child whenever they are hungry, whether that is every hour or every 4 hours,” Stockel said. “For instance, a 9-month old may eat every 4 hours for 5 minutes but go through growth spurt periods or teething where they want to feed hourly.”
Too much food?
Overfed babies can have stomach pains, gas, spit up or vomit and be at higher risk for obesity later in life, according to AAP.
Therefore, the AAP recommends to offer less and give more as your child wants it. Additionally, this gives babies more time to realize they’re full.
Not enough food?
If you are worried your child isn’t getting enough food, there are a few ways to indicate the proper nutrition, including diaper changes and growth.
In the first few days after birth, a baby should have two to three wet diapers each day. After the first four to five days, a baby should have at least five to six wet diapers a day. Stool frequency is more variable and depends whether your baby is breastfed or formula fed.
During wellness visits, your child’s provider will check your baby’s weight on a growth chart, along with asking about your child’s diaper frequency. Your baby’s progress on the growth chart is one way to tell whether or not they are getting enough food. Babies who stay in healthy growth percentile ranges are probably getting a healthy amount of food during feedings.
Talk to your child’s doctor
With regular wellness check-ups in the first months of life, you can connect with your child’s provider for recommendations. Talk with your pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns about your baby getting the right amount to eat.
If you have issues with breastfeeding, connect with a lactation services at your health care system. You also can download and view the document for more questions on breastfeeding.