Have you ever asked yourself: how often should I be feeding my baby? Well, the answer is easy. Just feed your newborn whenever they seem hungry! (It’s really that simple.) On-demand feeding ensures that your little one gets enough to eat, which is especially important in those first few days and weeks. Here’s what to expect: In the first few days of life, most healthy, formula-fed newborns will eat about every 2 to 3 hours. As they get bigger and their tummies can hold more milk, they usually eat about every 3 to 4 hours.
Newborns and young babies should be fed whenever they seem hungry. This is called on-demand feeding.
Newborns and young babies should be fed on-demand. This means whenever they seem hungry—usually 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period for the first few weeks of life. Breastfed babies will feed more often than formula-fed babies, but if you’re formula feeding, your baby may need 1 to 3 ounces (30 to 90 mL) every 2–3 hours.
Feeding your newborn as they become hungry and allowing them to stop when they are full are just some of the basics of on-demand feeding. Remember, you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby, so allow them to feed until they stop on their own. In time with patience and practice, you will get the hang of it.
During the first few days, it’s common for a newborn to breastfeed every hour. However, after a few weeks, most babies begin to settle into a different routine. Newborns who are formula-fed usually consume about 4 to 5 ounces every four hours.
Your newborn baby should typically feed almost as soon as they wake up. Newborns can sleep for up to 16 hours in a 24-hour period, and will often wake for a feed — especially at night.
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 their hands or fingers
- Opening their mouth, sticking out their tongue, or puckering their lips
Crying is also a sign of hunger. But if you wait until your baby is very upset to feed them, it can be hard to calm them down.
- Your newborn baby’s belly is tiny. He or she does not need a lot of milk with each feeding to be full.
- Your baby may want to eat as often as every 1 to 3 hours. Frequent feeding helps increase your milk supply and gives your baby practice at sucking and swallowing.
- You may be able to hear your baby sucking and swallowing the breast milk.
- Most babies who are getting breast milk should not be fed infant formula in the first few days. If you are concerned about meeting your baby’s needs, talk to a lactation consultant, or your baby’s nurse or doctor, right away. They can help you address any breastfeeding problems and determine the best way to meet your baby’s needs.
Did You Know?
Some newborns may be sleepy and not interested in feeding.
At first, babies need to eat about every 2 to 4 hours to help them get enough nutrition and to grow.
This means you may need to wake your baby to feed. You can try patting, stroking, undressing, or changing the diaper to help wake your baby.
If you have concerns about how much your baby is sleeping or eating, talk to his or her doctor or nurse.
First Weeks and Months
- As babies grow, their bellies also grow. Your baby will gradually be able to drink more breast milk at each feeding.
- Over the first few weeks and months, the time between feedings will start to get longer. On average, most exclusively breastfedalert icon babies will feed about every 2 to 4 hours. Some babies may feed as often as every hour at times, often called cluster feeding. Or may have a longer sleep interval of 4 to 5 hours.
- How often your baby feeds might change depending on the time of day. Some feeding sessions may be long, and others short. That is okay. Babies will generally take what they need at each feeding and stop eating when they are full. They should seem content and drowsy after feeding when they have had enough milk.
- Your baby will breastfeed about 8 to 12 times in 24 hours.
6 to 12 Months
If you have questions about your baby’s growth or how much breast milk he or she is getting, talk with your child’s doctor or nurse.
- How long and how often babies breastfeed will change as they grow and start eating more solid foods.
- Continue to follow your baby’s cues and breastfeed when you notice signs of hunger. This is sometimes called breastfeeding on demand.
- If your baby seems less interested in breastfeeding after you introduce solid foods, try breastfeeding before you offer other foods.
- Your breast milk is the most important source of nutrition, even after you start feeding your baby solid foods.
12 to 24 Months
- The number of times a day a toddler breastfeeds varies. Some want to breastfeed only before bed or in the morning. Others continue to drink breast milk as a bigger portion of their daily diet. Continue to follow your child’s cues to decide when he or she is hungry and wants to breastfeed.
Baby Feeding Schedule by Age
Every baby is different. How much and how often your baby feeds will depend on your baby’s needs. Here are a few things to expect about breastfeeding during the baby’s first days, weeks, and months of life.
How Often Should I Feed My Baby?
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 they get older, they’ll slowly start to nurse less often and fall into a more predictable pattern.
Newborns should nurse eight to 12 times a day for the first month; when your child gets to be 4 to 8 weeks old, they’ll probably start nursing seven to nine times a day.
If they’re drinking formula, your baby will probably want a bottle every 2 to 3 hours at first. As your child grows, they should be able to go 3 to 4 hours without eating.
Newborn growth spurts and hunger
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 around these ages:
- 7-14 days
- 3-6 weeks
- 4 months
- 6 months
How Much Should I Feed My Baby?
There are general guidelines, but no hard and fast rules, for how much your baby should have at each feeding. It depends on their own habits and rate of growth, plus a few other things, such as their age and how often they feed.
Babies usually drink more each time (and feed less often) as they grow and their stomachs can hold more. If you breastfeed, your baby may drink a little less each time but feed more often than babies who get formula.
Most babies add about 1 ounce to what they drink per feeding with each month of age. This levels off when they’re about 6 months old, when they usually drink 7 to 8 ounces per feeding. Here’s about much your baby should drink at each feeding when they are:
- Newborn to 2 months.In the first days after your baby is born, they may want only a half ounce of milk or formula at each feeding. This will quickly increase to 1 or 2 ounces. By the time they’re 2 weeks old, they should drink about 2 or 3 ounces per feeding.
- 2-4 months.At this age, your baby should drink about 4 to 5 ounces per feeding.
- 4-6 months. At 4 months, your baby should drink about 4 to 6 ounces per feeding. By the time your baby is 6 months old, they’ll probably drink up to 8 ounces each time you feed them.
Not sure if your baby is getting enough to eat? You can probably relax. If your child has four to six wet diapers a day, has regular bowel movements, and is gaining weight, chances are that they’re doing just fine. If you have any concerns, give your pediatrician a call.
When to Start Solids
Your baby needs to reach certain stages of development before you add solid food to their diet. If you breastfeed, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that you feed your baby breast milk alone until they’re about 6 months old. Many babies are ready for solids when they’re about this age.
Here’s how to tell if your baby may be ready for solid food:
- They can hold up their head and keep it steady while seated in a high chair or other infant seat.
- They open their mouth for food or reach out for it.
- They put their hands or toys in their mouth.
- They can take food from a spoon and swallow it instead of dribbling it all out.
- They have doubled their birth weight and weigh at least 13 pounds.
When to Wean
Most babies are ready to be weaned from the bottle by 12 to 18 months, but exactly when it happens is up to you and to your baby. Your baby may be ready to start to wean when they:
- Enjoy solid food more
- Eat on a regular schedule
The process takes time, and you can help your baby make the change by giving them a cup to try when they’re around 6 months old. Generally, you should stop bottle use by the time your baby is 2 years old.
If you breastfeed, the AAP suggests that you continue to feed your baby breast milk along with solid food until they’re at least 1 year old. Your child may give you clues that they’re ready to wean. They may:
- Show more interest in solid food or drinking from a cup
- Not want to sit still while you breastfeed
You may want to wean your baby for your own reasons. The process works best when it’s gradual. The AAP notes that if it’s what you and your child want, you can continue to breastfeed after your baby reaches their first birthday.