Have you ever wondered why newborn babies need to feed so frequently? I certainly did when my baby was born and at times she was feeding hourly! It can be a real source of anxiety for a lot of parents. They will ask me in my GP clinics - do you think we are giving them enough milk or do I have enough milk? Why do they need to feed every hour if so?
Understanding the size of your newborn baby’s stomach, the average volume taken in during a feed and typical newborn feeding frequency can help alleviate some anxiety a mother can feel when she is breastfeeding. When formula feeding, it is a lot easier to see how much they are taking in. As a guideline, in the early days, breastfed babies will need to feed between 8 and 12 times a day and formula fed babies between 6 and 8 times a day.
Here’s an illustration that gives you some idea of just how small those newborn stomachs are!
Newborns are only this tiny for a short time, their stomachs grow quickly and they get more efficient at feeding which means feeding sessions become less frequent and shorter. By the age of one, the stomach is about the size of an orange.
Paying attention to your baby’s hunger cues (lip smacking, sucking on anything nearby, hands to mouth, turning towards the breast) really helps. Crying is actually a late sign of hunger so there’ll be other cues before this normally! If you’re breastfeeding and your breasts empty during a feed and if you’re formula feeding, you offer baby the recommended volume based on their age and weight, then you’re probably on your way! If baby’s nappies are wet of urine (6 in 24 hrs when they’re newborn), they seem contented after a feed and they are gaining weight, then these are all good signs.
If you are ever concerned, the best thing to do is ask your midwife, health visitor, GP or feeding specialist. They can help advise on feeding patterns, how to increase or decrease your breastmilk supply and assess the baby to see if they feel that he/she is getting enough. You should never feel alone and seek help when you need. Many other parents will be having the same anxieties!
To learn more about feeding your baby, we have Cathy Bowker (Infant Feeding Specialist Midwife) who is one of our 10 local specialists presenting at our Bump to Cradle classes, starting from January 2017. To learn more about these classes go to www.bumptocradle.com.