It is recommended that a newborn eat every 3-4 hours. But how do you time these feedings? From the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next? Or from the end of one feeding to the beginning of the next?
It may not seem like the most natural way to space feedings, which causes some confusion for parents of newborns, but the correct way to time feedings is from the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of another.
If a feeding were to start at noon, the next one would start by 3 p.m. Now, say the baby is a slow eater and it takes him/her about an hour to nurse (this isn’t uncommon with tiny new ones!), that would mean there’s a lot less time in between feedings than a faster nursing baby. The slowness and unpredictability of newborn eating causes some confusion when it comes to how to time feedings, but it is indeed from the beginning to the beginning.
Another thing to keep in mind when timing feedings is breastfed babies tend to eat more often than formula-fed babies. The reason behind this is because breast milk is typically softer on the stomach and easier to digest. Therefore, it is digested more quickly and baby becomes hungry more often! Formula isn’t necessarily rough on stomachs (for the most part), but it does take a little more time and effort for baby to digest.
Once baby is back to his/her birth weight, typically around two weeks of age, the pediatrician should give the go-ahead to let baby go longer than 3 hours between feedings when sleeping. Hopefully this allows more sleep for everyone involved, but it is still important to keep track of how often baby is eating and how many feedings are taking place in a 24-hour period.
Some parents choose to feed baby on demand and some set feeding schedules for newborns. Some choose to nurse and others bottle feed. For the first couple of months, there is a lot of trial and error as every parent is different and it is certainly true that all babies are different!
It is often recommended to keep track of baby’s eating schedule (in an app, or on paper-whatever works for you!). This is a lifesaver for me, especially in the middle of the night. I nursed my boy until he was fifteen months old and I’m still nursing my seven-month-old baby girl. With both babies, I only ever fed them on one side each feeding. So, included in my notes of when I fed them, I also kept track of which side I last fed them on. Without those notes, I would’ve stressed out a lot more than necessary!