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How often should your baby be feeding?

When your newborn baby is hungry, they’ll let you know loud and clear. Babies aren’t good at scheduling feeding times. If you follow the baby’s need for “feeding on demand”, this is also known as responsive feeding. This is usually the best method for healthy babies who were born full-term.

However, if your baby arrived prematurely or has a medical condition, it is best to follow a feeding schedule provided by the paediatrician, says WebMD

Howls of hunger

The rule of thumb is to feed whenever baby is hungry, but sometimes at this early stage of their evolving language skills, the loud sucking or sniffles may be a quest for a cuddle or a change of diaper, or it’s “just so hot in this onesie, get me out of here.”

According to HealthyChildren.org, if they’re howling, it’s their last resort, and they’re so stressed out by the effort of going to such extremes to alert you, they will take a long time to settle down to feed. The bottom line with the crying is they’re just so upset.

That’s why you have to be alert to the tell-tale cues, which are:

  • Sticking out their tongues and licking their lips
  • Puckering of lips and opening of the mouth
  • Fussing and moving the legs
  • Repeatedly sticking fingers or hands in the mouth – sucking and dribbling
  • Sucking on whatever they can lay their hands-on
  • Rooting or leaning in toward your breast or if the bottle is nearby.

Growth spurts in newborn babies

The baby’s healthcare provider will check weight and height during check-ups and plot a growth chart. If the growth chart shows that the baby is growing within healthy growth percentile ranges, then feeding requirements are being met, and they are deemed healthy.

Rapid growth occurs when they want to eat more often and for longer. Baby growth spurts usually occur at these ages: 7-14 days; 3-6 weeks; 4 months and six months.  

Feeding times

Every baby is different and grows differently at their own pace and style, depending on whether they are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. With breastfeeding, they will want to nurse more often because they’ll digest breast milk quickly and be hungry sooner. So you can expect feeding on-demand to occur every 1.5 to 3 hours.  

According to KidsHealth, newborn breastfed babies usually nurse 8-12 times a day during their first month, feeding up to 20 minutes or longer on both breasts. The frequency of these feedings stimulates milk production during the first few weeks.

A formula-fed baby usually demands a bottle every 2-3 hours and feed for about 20 minutes for the first few weeks and go for longer – 3 -4 hours without a feed after that. 

As they grow, the longer time between feedings results from them developing their breastfeeding skills, such as latching onto the nipple more accurately or the bottle teat.

 At 1-2 months, they’ll probably nurse 7-9 times for about 5 -10 minutes on each breast. Some will be hungry every 90 minutes while others will last 2 to 4 hours between feedings, and all will settle into a regular schedule of their own making. 

Newborn babies should not go longer than 4 hours without feeding, even overnight, when you’re hoping to get some uninterrupted sleep. And if you see that feeding times are too long or too short, call your healthcare provider immediately. 

How much do they need?

As they grow and their stomachs can hold more milk, babies instinctively add 28.35 grams every month until they reach a drinking peak of 198.45 – 226.8 grams and level off at six months. Although they feed fewer times on the breast as they grow older, it will still be more frequently than formula-fed babies. 

This is how the numbers usually work:

  • O-2 months: Eat about 14 grams per feeding every 1.5 to 3 hours; 8 -12 times every 24 hours for the first two days. This is when they’re getting to grips with being breastfed or bottle-fed. You’ll know they are getting enough if you’re changing 3 to 3 wet diapers a day up to about five days old.
  • After two days, they will increase to 28.35 – 56.7 grams at each feeding until two weeks old, when they’re likely to take in 56.7 – 85.05 grams. Wet diaper changes increase the more feed they take in. Stools vary depending on what they’re feeding on.
  • They’re taking in about 113.4 – 141.75 grams per feeding every 3 to 4 hours by two months. Wet diaper changes are around 5 to 6. 
  • They’re taking in 113.4 – 170.1 grams a feeding by four months. 
  • By six months, they’re topping it off at 226.8 grams a feeding every 4 to 5 hours. 

Solid foods usually start at six months when they can sit more sturdily, have doubled in weight and height and grab and hold objects.

Speak to your healthcare provider before making any routine or dietary changes for your baby.

Affinity Health offers affordable healthcare plans and products. You can also qualify for Out of Hospital Benefits, Private Hospital Cover or the best of each. 

Affinity Health Benefits include:

  • Immediate medical treatment in a hospital’s emergency room or casualty department.
  • Aiding the detection and confirmation of a disease, injury, or health condition.
  • Outpatient HIV/AIDS treatment.
  • Admission to any medical facility.
  • Pregnancy, childbirth, and postnatal care.
  • Eye, optometry, specialist consultations and more.
  • Help to manage your diabetes.
  • Cover specific chronic conditions.
  • Additional medical assistance at home once discharged from hospital-specific claims.
  • Primary healthcare screening.
  • Care and support are provided for members and their families after a traumatic event and the after-effects.
  • Coverage for a work-related injury or disease medical expenses.



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