How Often Does a Newborn Need to Eat?

How Often Does a Newborn Need to Eat?

Question: How often does a newborn need to eat?


  • Your newborn shouldn't go longer than four hours between each feeding.

  • For the first few weeks, you might need to wake your baby to feed him at least every four hours, even overnight.

If your baby is sleeping through the night as soon as you bring him home from the hospital, don't celebrate just yet! If your baby isn't waking up at night to eat, he might actually be at risk for dehydration or he might be suffering from severe jaundice, which means he might be so lethargic that he can't wake up. For the first couple weeks of his life, your newborn will need to eat every two to four hours, depending on if your baby is breastfed or formula fed. Breastfed babies usually need to eat more often than a formula fed baby, usually eating every two or three hours for the first few weeks. But if your baby is formula fed, he will probably only need to eat every three or four hours. Instead of trying to stick to a strict schedule, especially in the beginning, watch for signs that your baby is hungry. If your baby moves his head side-to-side, puts his hands in his mouth, or shows the rooting reflex (when your baby responds to you rubbing your finger on his cheek), these are all signs that your baby is hungry. When my little boy was a newborn, I always knew he was hungry because he would start pecking my shoulder like a baby bird. Now? He just tends to get grumpy. So sometimes, I really miss those little newborn hunger cues! Feeding your baby or nursing "on demand" for the first few weeks is especially important for breastfeeding mamas, as it helps your milk come in and helps you build up your supply. As your baby gets older, you can work toward creating a more consistent schedule. But also be aware that as he grows, this schedule will change as his stomach grows, making it so he can go longer and longer between each feeding. And most importantly, that he will be able to sleep longer and longer at night! :) Also watch out for growth spurts, as your baby might need to eat more often than usual for a few days as he goes through a growth spurt. You can expect these growth spurts to happen in the first few days of your newborn's life, when he is 7-14 days old, and then again when your baby is two months old, four months old, and six months old. One way to make sure your baby is eating enough is to monitor his wet and dirty diapers. As a newborn, your baby should have several wet and poopy diapers each day, and the number of dirty diapers should be fairly consistent day-to-day. However, the best way to know if your baby is getting enough to eat is by monitoring his weight. Other than staying up-to-date on immunizations, your baby's frequent newborn checkups give you a great opportunity to make sure your baby is continuing to grow and gain weight as he should. At each of your baby's checkups, talk to your doctor about your baby's weight and check with your doctor on how much and how often you should be feeding your baby.

By the time your baby is six weeks old, and as long as he is at a healthy weight and continuing to grow (again, check with your doctor), you should be able to stop waking your baby at night to feed him. But make sure to still feed your baby every four hours or more (as needed) during the day!

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