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Baby's Daily Needs: What to Expect - Topic Overview

To help establish and maintain a predictable daily schedule, respond to your baby's needs and try to reinforce your baby's natural habits.

Eating

From birth, babies follow their internal hunger and fullness cues. They eat when they're hungry and stop eating when they're full. Experts agree that newborns should be fed on demand. This means that you breast- or bottle-feed your infant whenever he or she shows signs of hunger, rather than setting a strict schedule.

How often your baby needs to eat will depend on your baby's age and how hungry he or she is at that moment. As your newborn grows, you can try these tips:

  • At about 3 weeks, you can try delaying feeding for a short time by cuddling or talking with your newborn. Your newborn's nervous system is mature enough that he or she can wait longer between feedings and interact with you more at this age. Take cues from your baby. Don't force your baby to engage with you when he or she is not responding and appears to be very hungry.
  • You might be able to limit nighttime feedings if you avoid socializing with your baby and lingering after he or she has finished eating. As your baby wakes up for the next feeding, try to respond before he or she starts to cry a lot. During the feeding, keep the light off and use a soft voice. Your baby will feed and go back to sleep easier if he or she is calm. If you find that you want to give your baby more attention during nighttime feedings, plan for a time you can rest the following day to avoid fatigue. By age 2 months, many babies begin eating less frequently at night.

At age 3 to 4 months, babies become more and more interested in the world around them. Babies often interrupt feedings by looking around, smiling, cooing, and reaching for a parent's face. This is a normal attempt to turn feeding times into a more social event and an opportune time for parents to interact with their babies.

At about 6 months, most babies can start to eat solid foods. This complements breast milk or formula. Try to be patient as your baby experiments and learns new eating skills like chewing and using cups and utensils.

For more information about feeding, see the topics Breast-Feeding, Bottle-Feeding, and Weaning. Follow your doctor's advice on when and what to feed your baby.

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