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How often should I feed my baby?

Mary Fetzer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant with a marketing degree from Penn State University and 15 years of international business experience. Mary specializes in writing about parenting, children, pregnancy, college, h...

Your baby's eating schedule

Your baby is here and she came without instructions! What and how you feed your newborn is your decision -- one that has to work for you and your baby.

baby-drinking-bottle
Is my baby hungry?

To feed your baby when she seems hungry, you have to be in tune with her behavior. Many experts suggest looking for your baby's rooting reflex: Stroke her cheek and see if she moves her mouth toward your hand. Look for these cues that she's ready for her next meal:

  • Opening her mouth or puckering her lips
  • Moving her head from side to side
  • Sticking out her tongue
  • Nuzzling against your face, neck, arm or breast
  • Placing her hands to her mouth

Crying can be a sign of hunger, but it's often a late sign. And if your baby is crying shortly after a feeding, it's probably not because she's hungry.

How many hours between feedings?

If you're blessed with a baby who sleeps a lot, you may find that you have to wake her now and then to be sure she's getting enough to eat. Check with your doctor about creating a schedule.

Very young babies should eat every two or three hours. Newborns can only take in so much food at a time, so they have to eat frequently. As she grows and can take bigger feedings, you can begin to space them three to four hours apart.

Adjusting to Changes in baby's appetite

Generally, as babies gain weight, they begin to eat more at each feeding and go longer between feedings. You may notice, however, that sometimes your baby seems hungrier (and fussier) than usual. She may be experiencing a growth spurt. Growth spurts are different for every baby, but you may notice them near these times:

  • Seven to 14 days old
  • Between three and six weeks old
  • Four months old
  • Six months old

Don't get stressed or feel that your breast or bottle feeding is inadequate. Just follow your baby's cues and continue to feed on demand. You may find that you have to increase the amount of formula you give or supplement your breast milk with formula.

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If your baby isn't gaining weight as she should be, your pediatrician may recommend adjustments to your feeding schedule. And anytime you feel that something with the feedings is "off," talk it over with the doctor.

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