Is my baby eating enough?
Wondering if a baby is getting enough to eat is one of the biggest worries of new Moms.
Feeding is one of the most common topics new Moms ask me about. How much should a baby eat? How often? How do I know if he is getting enough? Sometimes it seems like a newborn eats almost non stop, and then if an infant suddenly sleeps a few hours Moms worry that maybe their little one is not eating enough! Oh the worries of new Moms! Right?
An infant is growing faster than any other time of his life which makes his nutritional needs greater than any other time in life! Babies will usually triple their birth weight in the first year. Think about it…that is a lot of growth. We certainly wouldn’t want to triple ours!!
Feeding your baby is a big part of your day. Many times new Moms feel like that is the ONLY thing they get accomplished in a day! If you have fed your baby and lovingly held your baby during the day, then you have done a great job being a Mom. Relax, that is all you are supposed to be doing in those first few weeks!
The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that breast milk is the best source of nutrition for your baby through the first full year of life. There are many advantages to breast-feeding your baby; some of these advantages include a reduced risk of ear infections, severe diarrhea, and allergies. Breastfeeding prevents obesity and diabetes in childhood and in later life and helps Moms return to pre-pregnancy weight and reduces the incidence of some cancers in women
There are times when breastfeeding is not a choice for new Moms. Infant formula will also provide adequate nutrition for your baby. If you choose not to breastfeed, your baby should be given formula for the first full year of life.
Breast and bottle fed infants do not need anything other than breast milk or formula for the first few months. No water or juice. Parents will introduce water from a cup when solid foods are started between 4 and 6 months. No juice is needed! There is very little nutritional value to juice except added sugar and calories. Breast milk or formula is all your baby needs!
Remember feeding your baby is not just for the purpose of nutrition. It is a time to relax, cuddle, hold your baby close, and bond. Whether you bottle feed or breastfeed, feeding time provides precious moments of bonding and enjoyment for you and your baby.
So how does a new Mom know if her baby is eating enough?
- Diapers give Moms the best clues the first few weeks. Babies should have 6 or more wet diapers a day and often a little yellow seedy bowel movement after every feeding.
- After a few weeks your baby may have less frequent bowel movements with several days in between and that is just fine. Your baby should continue to have 6 wet diapers a day.
- You should hear your baby swallow after sucking. Your baby will appear satisfied for a couple of hours right after feeding. You should feed your baby on demand, but not let your baby sleep for four or more hours those first few weeks. Sometimes an “easy” baby who sleeps long periods those first few weeks are babies that are not eating enough.
- By the end of the 2nd week, your baby should have gained any weight back that he lost after birth and be back to birth weight.
- Your baby should gain between ½ ounce and 1 ounce a day during the first three months.
- Between 3 and 6 months, your baby should gain about ½ ounce a day.
- Your baby should triple birth weight by a year.
- Your doctor will weigh your baby at each visit, and if you are worried about weight gain call and schedule a weight visit.
- Lactation consultants at your hospital are a great help for breast-feeding Moms. Check out the breastfeeding support groups. These groups will answer your questions about breastfeeding and you can weigh your baby and monitor weight gain at the group!
Bottle fed babies:
- Bottle fed babies should be fed on demand, not by schedule.
- During the first few weeks your baby will take 2 to 3 ounces of formula every 3 to 4 hours.
- During the first month, if your baby sleeps longer than 4 hours during the day, wake him up and offer a bottle.
- By the end of the first month, your baby should be taking at least 4 ounces of formula eating about every 4 hours.
- By 6 months, most babies will take between 6 and 8 ounces 4 to 5 times in a 24 hour period.
- Your baby should take approximately 2 ½ ounces of formula a day for every pound he weighs. That does not mean you need to force feed or starve your baby if he is over or under…he will regulate what he needs! Listen to his cues!
- Watch your baby, if he becomes restless or pushes the bottle from his mouth…then stop the feeding! Don’t make him a member of the “empty bottle club”! If he drains a bottle and is still smacking his lips, he may need another ounce or so.
- Most babies will take 3 to 4 ounces the first month and then increase about an ounce a month until about 7 or 8 ounces of formula per feeding. Babies should not have any more than about 32 ounces per day. Some babies need more “suck time”… offer a pacifier.
Remember, every baby is different. There is no perfect feeding pattern and no book that can tell you exactly when and how much your baby needs. It is best not to be ruled by the clock or by ounces. Watch your baby and you will eventually learn his feeding pattern and needs. After your baby has gained back any weight lost those first few days after birth, relax and just learn your baby’s cues for hunger and fullness. There are tracking apps for eating, peeing and pooping…don’t be tied to tracking, learn to trust your instincts. Always make feeding a time to enjoy with your baby. It is one of the sweeter moments of parenting!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.