01 Sep Home with new baby: Getting Your Baby on a Feeding Schedule
Last month we discussed an overview of what to expect your first week home with new baby. This month we will be going more in depth into some concerns new parents have when caring for their newborn.
From the moment your new baby arrives, one of the biggest responsibilities you will have as a parent is feeding your child. Babies naturally rely on their parents for food, whether they are breastfed or bottle-fed. Breast milk and formula should make up your child’s diet for the first six months of life. From 6 mo of age, you can add in infant cereals and baby foods in a bowl along with your breastfeeds or formula, with the goal of switching to normal table foods and meals as a family after the first birthday.
To make sure your child is getting enough nutrients and isn’t going hungry, you need to make sure that you set up a feeding schedule right away. It is not only best for the baby, but it can help parents as well.
The Importance of a Feeding Schedule
Your baby’s feeding schedule is about more than just making sure your child is getting enough food. A feeding schedule helps set the framework for your baby’s entire routine so that you can help your child establish their circadian rhythm. This is a biological clock that helps babies distinguish night from day.
Newborns aren’t going to stick directly to a schedule. They are going to want to be fed on demand and will sleep when they are tired, but attempting to stick to as much of a schedule as possible will only set the foundation for their future.
Looking for Hunger Cues
A schedule is a great outline for how your baby’s daily feedings should go. However, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be times where your baby is hungry and needs to be fed. Your baby will let you know when he or she is hungry; you just need to look for your child’s hunger cues. Common signals include:
- Becoming more alert
- Making sucking motions
- Putting hands or fingers in the mouth
- Smacking lips
- Kicking and squirming
- Sticking out the tongue
- “Rooting” or searching for the breast
When a baby starts crying, this is a late hunger cue, and your baby has likely been hungry for a while. Try to look for the more subtle cues first to ensure your child isn’t feeling uncomfortably hungry. Remember some infants do go from 0-60, so no mom guilt if you find the only way your baby lets you know hunger is to start screaming!
How Often Should Babies Be Feeding?
According to HealthyChildren.org, babies who are breastfed eat more frequently than those who are formula fed. The average newborn drinks breast milk 10-12 times a day during their first few weeks. The average formula-fed newborn feeds approximately 8x a day. As your baby gets older, the time between feedings increases. The baby’s stomach will grow larger and they will be able to consume more in a single setting and will not need to feed as frequently at night.
How Much Should You Feed?
Knowing when to feed your newborn is only half of the battle. A proper feeding schedule also includes making sure your baby is getting the right amount of nutrition during every feeding. By the end of your child’s first month, they usually are taking in around 3-4 ounces of formula per feeding. Breastfeeding is always on demand, so many breastfeeding moms worry their baby is not getting enough food. Trust your instincts, listen to your baby’s sucks and swallows, and feel your breasts not as full after the feed. Also, you pediatrician will be seeing you very frequently in the first few months of life, so your babies growth and weight will tell you and your doctor easily if your baby is feeding well.
Watch for cues that your baby is full, instead of attempting to time the feeding. Every baby is different, and learning to determine when your child has had enough is more important than setting a timer. Babies who are breast feeding may fall asleep or move away from the breast. Formula-fed babies will likely start fidgeting, closing their mouth or become distracted with the bottle in their mouth.
While feeding schedules may seem complicated at first, over time, you will start to learn your baby’s habits, needs and own personal schedule and feedings will become easier and easier over time as your child begins to grow.
If you have questions about newborn care, we would like to discuss any concerns you may have regarding your child. You can schedule an appointment with me, Dr. Kathryn Mandal, by calling 817-617-8600 or scheduling online at http://continuumtx.com/contact.