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Nourishing your baby can be a daunting task for the first few weeks. Whether you're using the breast or the bottle, this newborn feeding schedule can serve as a guide.

By Nicole Harris
December 18, 2020
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mother breastfeeds baby, smiling
Credit: Getty Images

Unfortunately for new parents, there’s no one-size-fits-all guide to nourishing your infant. The ideal newborn feeding amount will vary based on your baby's body weight, appetite, and age. It'll also depend on whether you’re breastfeeding or formula feeding. Always consult your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant if you’re unsure how often to feed a newborn, and check out these general guidelines as a starting point.

How Much Should a Breastfed Newborn Eat?

Your infant probably won't be too hungry in their first few days of life, and they may only take in a half-ounce per feeding. The amount will soon increase to 1 to 2 ounces. By their second week of life, your thirsty baby will eat about 2 to 3 ounces in one session. They'll continue drinking larger amounts of breast milk as they grow. Of course, it's hard to keep track of ounces when you're breastfeeding, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends nursing on demand.

So how often do newborns eat? For their first four to six weeks, breastfed babies generally get hungry every two to three hours around the clock. That equates to around eight or 12 feedings per day (although you should allow them to drink more or less if they desire). Babies usually consume about 90 percent of their breast milk portion in the first 10 minutes of a feeding.

To time nursing sessions properly, follow your newborn’s cues. Watch for signs of hunger such as increased alertness, mouthing, nuzzling against your breast, or rooting (a reflex in which your baby opens their mouth and turns their head toward something that touches their cheek). Your pediatrician may recommend rousing your newborn for nighttime feedings in the early weeks, too.

You'll know your baby is getting enough nourishment by your pediatrician's weigh-ins and the number of wet diapers (about five to eight per day during the first few days and six to eight per day thereafter).

How Much Should a Formula-Fed Newborn Eat?

As with breastfeeding, newborn babies generally won’t drink much formula during their first few days of life—maybe only a half-ounce per feeding. The quantity will soon increase, and formula-fed babies will begin taking in 2 or 3 ounces at once. By the time they turn 1 month, your baby may consume up to 4 ounces every time you feed them. They’ll eventually cap out at around 7 to 8 ounces per feeding (although this milestone is several months away).

The question of “how many ounces should a newborn drink?” also depends on a baby's measurements. Aim to give your baby 2.5 ounces of formula per pound of body weight each day, says Amy Lynn Stockhausen, M.D., an associate professor of general pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

In terms of a newborn feeding schedule, plan to give your baby formula every three to four hours. Formula-fed infants may feed a little less frequently than breastfed infants because formula is more filling. Your pediatrician may recommend waking your newborn every four or five hours to offer a bottle. 

Aside from following a schedule, it’s also important to recognize hunger cues, since some babies have a larger appetite than others. Remove the bottle once they become distracted or fidgety while drinking. If they smack their lips after draining the bottle, they may not be completely satisfied yet. 

The Bottom Line

Are you still wondering, “how often do newborns eat?” It’s important to realize that there isn’t a clear-cut answer, and every baby has different needs depending on their weight, age, and appetite. Always consult your pediatrician for advice if you’re unsure.

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