With tiny tummies and immature systems, newborns need to eat frequently in the early weeks of life. In fact, it may sometimes seem like you finish one feeding and begin the next within a short time. It helps to keep track of how often a newborn eats to ensure that she eats within the recommended frequency. You can calculate your newborn’s next feeding by keeping notes.
Write down the time you begin feeding your newborn. If you are breastfeeding, feedings can take as long as an hour in the early days while both you and your newborn learn how to feed effectively, states the Vermont Department of Health. If you are using formula, feeding will not take as long because the baby can drink faster through the synthetic nipple.
Note the time your baby finishes eating, especially if the feeding took significant time. Write this time in your notebook. The length of the feeding time does not factor into your calculations for the next feeding time, but it may be helpful and informative to note the length of feedings as you track how your baby eats, especially for breastfeeding babies. A newborn learning how to breastfeed might take an hour or more to eat; whereas a slightly older baby may take only 15 to 20 minutes, states the KidsHealth website. You can see your baby's feeding progress by tracking feeding length.
Calculate the next feeding from the time the last feeding started. If you are breastfeeding, it’s difficult to predict the exact time between feedings, but you should expect that the longest time between feedings would be three hours. Your newborn may need to eat in just one or two hours, however. If you are formula feeding, expect your baby to eat within three to four hours on average from the last feeding, advises the American Academy of Pediatrics HealthyChildren website.
Remember, newborns cannot tell time and don’t know about a four-hour feeding schedule. It’s possible that your newborn will want to eat more frequently. The AAP recommends feeding a newborn on demand initially, with the expectation that the baby will gradually space out feedings to a timetable of his own. Watch your baby for signs of hunger, despite the time since his last feeding. Signs of hunger include rooting or looking for a nipple, opening and closing the mouth, sticking out the tongue, sucking on hands or fingers and making sucking movements with the mouth, according to the KidsHealth website. Fussing and crying are late signs of hunger, according to information published by the University of Tennessee. Wake your baby to feed if more than five hours elapses from the last feeding time, advises the Vermont Department of Health.