In every issue of WebMD Baby, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our September 2011 issue, we gave WebMD's baby care expert, Hansa Bhargava, MD, a question about how parents can tell when their new babies are hungry. Here's what she said.
Q: Once my baby is born, how will I know how much food to give her?
A: Babies are very good at expressing their needs. You just have to learn the signs.
Let's start with hunger. These days, most parents feed their babies on demand, meaning when they're hungry. How will you know? Newborns signal hunger several ways, including opening and closing their mouths, sucking on their hands, "rooting" or rubbing their heads against mom's chest, and crying. If your baby tends to sleep a lot, wake her every two hours to make sure she eats.
Your baby's signals that she's had enough to eat will also be clear. She may turn her head away from the breast or bottle, fall asleep, or start crying if you keep trying to make her eat. Also, if you are nursing, your breasts will feel softer after she nurses because she's emptying them as she eats.
Most babies lose a little weight (up to 10%) in the first week but gain about 5 to 10 ounces per week through the first month. A baby getting enough to eat should have seven or eight wet diapers and one or more stools per day.