The first few weeks with your new baby can be incredibly overwhelming, and one of the things moms worry about most is, “How do I know if my baby is getting enough to eat?” This is especially true when you’re breastfeeding. Both you and your doctor will be watching your baby closely to make sure she regains her birth weight and continues to gain weight well. So how do you know when to feed your baby and for how long?
There are two theories when it comes to nursing newborns: on demand feedings and scheduled feedings. Either way, expect to be feeding your baby a lot in the early weeks.
The American Academy of Pediatrics espouses the on demand theory, which means you feed your baby whenever she manifests signs of hunger: rooting, chewing on hands or fists or crying.
On Demand Feeding:
- 8-12 feedings every 24 hours during the first weeks of life
- Feedings last from 10-45 minutes
Some parents choose scheduled feedings for full term babies, and even four of my five babies who were borderline preemies were able to breastfeed on a schedule with my doctor’s okay. So whatever you decide at this early stage, make sure you check with your own doctor.
When I say schedule, what I mean is a loose routine that helps you structure your day. You should always adjust if your baby shows signs of being hungry. It’s all about being flexible. Here’s my sample schedule, assuming your first feeding of the day is at 7 a.m. (of course this could be adapted for whatever time that first feed occurs).
7a m. First feeding of the day. Feed baby thoroughly, at least 20 minutes per side. 90 minutes after the feeding began, put baby down for a nap. Feed baby no later than 3 hours after the start of the previous feeding. Wake baby up if necessary. If your baby wakes up hungry before then, feed her and adjust your schedule.
Baby’s Feeding and Sleeping Schedule:
7 a.m – 1st Feeding
8:30 a.m. – Nap
10 a.m. – 2nd Feeding
11:30 a.m. – Nap
1 p.m. – 3rd Feeding
2:30 p.m. – Nap
4 p.m. – 4th Feeding
5:30 p.m. – Nap
7 p.m. – 5th Feeding
8 p.m. – Bedtime
10 p.m. – 6th Feeding (directly back to sleep)
1 a.m. – 7th Feeding (directly back to sleep)
4 a.m. – 8th Feeding (directly back to sleep)
Whether you’re feeding on demand or on a schedule, I do recommend not letting your baby sleep too much during the day. Once your baby has been asleep for 2-2.5 hours during the day, I would wake her up for a feeding. You want your baby to get used to the idea that daytime is playtime and nighttime is sleep time! If she sleeps for five hours in the middle of the day she might want to be up for five hours in the middle of the night!