Feeding Newborns

Feeding Newborns

Feeding is one of the baby’s first pleasant experiences. The baby’s first love for his parent(s) arises primarily from feeding. At feeding time the baby receives nourishment from his food as well as nourishment from his parent’s contact. Food, correctly taken, helps him to grow healthy and strong; and a parent’s love, generously given, helps him to feel secure. Help your baby get both kinds of nourishment.

In the first one to three days, the baby may tend to be more sleepy than hungry. Don’t be discouraged, the baby will soon become more interested in eating. In the first few weeks, feed the baby whenever he is fussy and hungry. On the average bottle feeders will eat every three to four hours, whereas breast feeders should average two to three hours.

The amount the baby takes will vary. Do not try to force a baby to take more than is desired. And remember, whether breast feeding or bottle feeding, hold the baby comfortably close.


Breastfeeding can be a wonderful experience for mother and baby. In the hospital, you will receive instructions and help on how to initiate breast feeding including proper latch-on and positioning.

Several points to remember about proper positioning are:

  • Use pillows to help support the infant at breast height. Elevating your feet on a small stool helps to relieve back discomfort.
  • The infant’s head, shoulder and buttocks should be in alignment.
  • The infant’s top and bottom lip should be flanged out. Try different positions throughout the day to facilitate complete emptying of the breasts.
  • For proper latch-on, the infant should have an inch or more of the areola in his mouth.

Your breasts initially produce colostrum, which despite seeming to be a small volume, is rich in nutrients and antibodies. Your milk supply will come in approximately 3-5 days after delivery. Milk production works on the principle of supply and demand. The more your baby breastfeeds, the more milk you will produce. Babies who are given supplemental bottles of water or formula breastfeed less frequently, decreasing the breast milk supply. Babies need to be breast fed at least 8-12 times in 24 hours in the first 2-4 weeks. Most infants will feed every 2-3 hours. It takes the average infant approximately 10-15 minutes to empty a breast.

Once your milk is in, there are several signs that will ensure you your baby is getting enough breast milk:

  • 6-8 wet diapers in 24 hours
  • 2-5 stools in 24 hours
  • audible swallowing during feeding
  • baby is satisfied between feedings

As a breastfeeding mother, you need to eat a healthy, well balanced diet and drink plenty of fluid. Contrary to popular belief, there are no specific foods that must be avoided by a nursing mother. There are very few illnesses or medications which are contradictions for breastfeeding. If you are given medication by another physician, please contact our office if you have been told to stop nursing. We can help you determine whether pumping may be helpful for a short time until your illness or course of medication has resolved or another medication might be more compatible.

“Growth Spurts” are when a baby suddenly wants to nurse more often. This frequent nursing is the way in which the baby increases his mother’s milk supply. Growth spurts commonly occur at 10 days, 6 weeks, and 3 months of age. A growth spurt usually lasts 24-48 hours.

Once your breast milk supply is well established, you may choose to express breast milk. Expressed breast milk will keep in the refrigerator for 5 days, 6 months in a freezer, and a year in a deep freezer.

Remember, breastfeeding is learned. Some references you may find helpful are:

Please call our office if you’d like to participate in our Latch It! class before delivery. 

Weaning Babies off of Breastfeeding

You should nurse your baby as long as you like. There is good scientific evidence of the benefits of breastfeeding during and through the first year of life. The longer you breastfeed, the more benefits accrue for your body, as well as for your baby.  If you want to wean to a bottle, you should use either expressed milk or infant formula. It is best to discuss this with the doctor or lactation consultant before changing. When mothers return to work, it is helpful to wean slowly so plan ahead. Change only one daily feeding to a bottle. Wait several days to adjust to the new schedule, then change another feeding to the bottle. Some mothers continue to breastfeed for the morning and evening feedings, and give formula during the day. Usually, the breasts are able to accommodate well to less regular feedings. To wean completely, just continue to substitute bottle feedings. Your milk production will decrease and finally stop and the baby will be weaned.  The baby should have breastmilk or formula for their entire first year of life.

For more tips on breastfeeding, visit our Breastfeeding FAQs.

Bottle Feeding Babies

Babies can grow quite adequately on any of the commercially prepared formulas. Vitamin supplements are not necessary for formula-fed infants. However, an iron fortified formula is necessary for adequate iron intake. Formula should be used for the first 12 months before cow’s milk is introduced.

Prepared formulas keep in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. You may warm the formula to room temperature in a pan of hot water or with a bottle warmer, but be sure to check the temperature of both the nipple and formula before giving to the baby, as it is very easy to burn the baby’s mouth. Do not warm the formula in the microwave oven because of uneven heating of the formula and the bottle. Always check the temperature of the feeding by sprinkling a few drops on your wrist before giving it to the baby. It should feel wet, not hot nor cold, and then it’s perfect.

Bottle fed babies, like breastfed babies, should be fed on a demand schedule allowing flexibility. Generally, bottle fed infants will eat every three to four hours. Burping is necessary for bottle fed infants because they swallow air during feedings. A baby’s intake will vary at times. Do not force him to complete the bottle. Bottles should never be propped or given in a crib. Bottle propping may cause accidental choking and robs the infant of the physical contact and nurturing which are important parts of nutrition.

For the first 3 months, a good rule of thumb for the amount a baby should eat is the baby’s age in months + 2, so, an average 1 month old +2, would take 3 ounces per feed. This will vary based on the size and needs of your baby.

Pacifiers, Water, and Solid Foods

In the first few months of life, babies sometimes just want to suck, even though they may not really be hungry. This is normal, and pacifiers may be very helpful in filling this need. Babies do not need extra water; breastmilk or formula should adequately hydrate your baby. Because of the immaturity of babies’ kidneys, giving water by itself in the first 4-6 months can cause low blood levels of sodium, which can cause seizures. Ask us before giving water by itself.

Solids (cereals and baby foods) are not added to the diet until 4-6 months of age. Read more about solid food introduction.

Digestion, Gas, Burping, Spit Up & BMs

Another topic of its own, read more about these common concerns here