It’s simple: You should nurse or offer a bottle whenever your little one is hungry in the first few months as a newborn. And your baby is going to let you know, loud and clear! But crying isn’t the only clue.
Following your child's lead, instead of trying to stick to a strict time-based schedule, is often called “demand feeding” or “feeding on-demand.” Since your infant can't actually say "I'm hungry,” you’ll want to learn to look for cues that it's time to eat. These may include:
- Leaning toward your breast or a bottle
- Sucking on his hands or fingers
- Opening his mouth, sticking out his tongue, or puckering his lips
Crying is also a sign of hunger. But if you wait until your baby is very upset to feed him, it can be hard to calm him down.
How Often Will My Baby Act Hungry?
Every child is different. It also depends on whether your baby is drinking breast milk or formula, since they digest breast milk more quickly.
If you're breastfeeding, your newborn will probably want to nurse every 1.5 to 3 hours. As he gets older, he'll slowly start to nurse less often and fall into a more predictable pattern.
Newborns should nurse 8-12 times a day for the first month; when your child gets to be 4 to 8 weeks old, he'll probably start nursing 7-9 times a day.
If he's drinking formula, your baby will probably want a bottle every 2 to 3 hours at first. As your child grows, he should be able to go 3 to 4 hours without eating.
You may notice that your baby sometimes wants to eat more often or a larger amount than normal. This usually happens when a child is growing rapidly. Your child may go through growth spurts at 7-14 days old, between 3-6 weeks old, around 4 months old, and around 6 months old.
Not sure if your baby is getting enough to eat? You can probably relax. If your child has 4-6 wet diapers a day, regular bowel movements, and is gaining weight, then chances are he's doing just fine. If you have any concerns, give your pediatrician a call.