A newborn's feeding pattern can be unpredictable. Here's what, when and how to feed your baby.By Mayo Clinic Staff
Feeding a newborn is a round-the-clock commitment. It's also an opportunity to begin forming a bond with the newest member of your family. Consider these tips for feeding a newborn.
Breast milk is the ideal food for babies — with rare exceptions. If breastfeeding isn't possible, use infant formula. Healthy newborns don't need cereal, water, juice or other fluids.
Most newborns need eight to 12 feedings a day — about one feeding every two to three hours.
Look for early signs of readiness to feed. Signs include moving the hands to the mouth, sucking on fists and fingers, and lip smacking. Fussing and crying are later cues. The sooner you begin each feeding, the less likely you'll need to soothe a frantic baby.
When your baby stops suckling, closes his or her mouth, or turns away from the nipple or bottle, he or she might be full — or simply taking a break. Try burping your baby or waiting a minute before offering your breast or the bottle again.
As your baby gets older, he or she may take in more milk in less time at each feeding.
Ask your baby's doctor about vitamin D supplements for the baby, especially if you're breastfeeding. Breast milk might not provide enough vitamin D, which helps your baby absorb calcium and phosphorus — nutrients necessary for strong bones.
Your newborn won't necessarily eat the same amount every day. During growth spurts — often at two to three weeks after birth — your newborn might take more at each feeding or want to be fed more often. Respond to early signs of hunger, rather than keeping a strict eye on the clock.
You might worry that your newborn isn't eating enough, but babies usually know just how much they need. Don't focus on how much, how often or how regularly your newborn eats. Instead, look for:
- Steady weight gain
- Contentment between feedings
- By the fifth day after birth, at least six wet diapers and three or more bowel movements a day
Contact the doctor if your newborn isn't gaining weight, wets fewer than six diapers a day or shows little interest in feedings.
Hold your newborn close during each feeding. Look him or her in the eye. Speak with a gentle voice. Use each feeding as an opportunity to build your newborn's sense of security, trust and comfort.
If other family members or caretakers will be feeding your baby part of the time, make sure they're using the same feeding routines and methods you use.
If you're having trouble breastfeeding, ask a lactation consultant or your baby's doctor for help — especially if every feeding is painful or your baby isn't gaining weight. If you haven't worked with a lactation consultant, ask your baby's doctor for a referral or check with the obstetrics department at a local hospital.
April 27, 2022
- Fink C, et al. Factors affecting vitamin D status. Children. 2019; doi:10.3390/children6010007.
- Schanler RJ, et al. Initiation of breastfeeding. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Feb. 12, 2020.
- Your guide to breastfeeding. Office on Women's Health. https://www.womenshealth.gov/patient-materials/resource/guides. Accessed Feb. 11, 2020.
- Altmann T, et al., eds. Feeding your baby. In: Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. 7th ed. Bantam Books; 2019.
- Hoecker JL (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. Feb. 28, 2020.