Bringing a child into this world evokes many emotions, from joy to excitement to stress. But, now what? Parenting, especially for first timers, can be overwhelming from the start. You’ll undoubtedly have many questions that come up in the days and weeks of the first two months after birth, also known as the newborn stage.
To help with these questions, we compiled some of the most commonly searched topics new parents have to provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to survive the newborn phase and raise a healthy child.
How much should a newborn eat?
Eating as a child or adult is second nature. We eat when we want. However, newborns and infants aren’t self-sufficient and rely on you, as parents, to feed them.
Feeding a newborn isn’t as easy as it may seem, though. But how do you know how much is enough? The truth is, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer because each newborn is different. One newborn may eat 3 ounces during a feed while another newborn eats only 1 ounce. They both can be healthy while still consuming varying quantities. Plus, the answer also varies based on whether you breastfeed or bottle feed with formula.
But if you’re looking for a general starting point, your child should initially consume about 1 to 2 ounces per feed before increasing to 2 to 3 ounces per feed after a few weeks. Mothers who breastfeed their newborn can expect to nurse eight to 12 times a day, so the total volume your baby consumes will depend on your particular breastfeeding schedule.
For formula-fed newborns, your baby should eat about 2 ½ ounces a day for every pound they weigh, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. For example, an 8-pound newborn (3.624 kg) should eat about 20 ounces (600 mL) per day. Spaced out over eight to 12 feeds, this would amount to 1 to 2 ounces per feed.
How often do newborns eat?
Again, this answer depends on whether you plan on breastfeeding your newborn or feeding them formula. It’s important to know breast milk is more easily digested than formula, meaning it doesn’t keep your newborn satisfied as long as formula does. As a result, breastmilk babies eat more often than formula-fed babies.
In general, breast milk-fed newborns eat around eight to 12 times a day – or about every two to three hours. At first, feedings may last 30 minutes – 15 minutes per breast – and will decrease in length as your child’s suck-swallow reflex develops.
Formula-fed newborns typically eat every two to four hours. Newborns need fat and calories to develop, so they shouldn’t go more than four to five hours without eating – regardless of being nursed or bottle fed.
If you’re struggling to find out how often to feed your newborn, it’s best to use a responsive feeding technique that focuses on feeding cues as opposed to a set schedule.
Some signs your newborn is hungry include:
- smacking lips
- sticking tongue out
- Putting hands to mouth
- Opening the mouth
Can you overfeed a newborn?
In short, yes, it is possible to overfeed your newborn. Between growth charts, feeding apps and pressure from seeing other parents and children on social media, it’s easy to have a vision of how your newborn should look or grow. This pressure can easily lead to overfeeding out of fear your newborn won’t gain weight appropriately or will experience developmental delays.
It’s easier to overfeed newborns who eat formula from a bottle because breastfeeding takes more effort and energy. Many bottles have easy-flow silicone nipples that deliver milk even without sucking. By comparison, breastfeeding requires your newborn to suck to extract the milk.
One way to avoid overfeeding is to focus on your baby instead of the clock or bottle. The focus of feedings shouldn’t be on a set amount. The old saying of “finish your plate before leaving the dinner table” doesn’t apply to newborns.
Aside from your newborn gaining too much weight, overfeeding can also cause physical symptoms such as gastrointestinal pain and gas or cause them to spit up and vomit.
How much weight should a newborn gain?
A healthy newborn typically gains about an ounce (30 grams) per day, so by the first month your newborn will most likely have gained 1 ½ to 2 pounds. Formula-fed babies can gain weight faster, so keep that in mind if you plan on breastfeeding your baby – many growth charts account for formula-fed babies and not breast-fed babies.
Don’t be alarmed if your baby loses weight a few days after birth. This is normal as babies are born with extra fluid. You can expect them to lose as much as 5 to 10 percent of their birth weight. They will regain the weight once they begin feeding.
Typically, you can expect your baby to double their birth weight during the first three to four months.
How to burp a newborn
Newborns, especially hungry newborns, have a tendency to suck in air when eating. The air then becomes trapped and can cause spit ups or gas to build up. To help prevent this, burp your newborn both during and after a feed.
There is more than one way to burp a baby, but the two most common techniques involve sitting your baby up in your lap or holding them against your chest.
When holding your baby up in your lap or on your knee, use one hand to support their chest and use the other hand to gently pat their back. Here’s a tip: Cup your hand instead of using a flat palm.
To burp your baby while holding them against your chest, position them so their chin rests on your shoulder. Place one arm around their waste and back to support them – newborns don’t have strong enough muscles to support themselves – and use the other to gently pat their back.
How often do you bathe a newborn?
Older children and adults tend to shower or bathe every day, but newborns only need a bath two to three times per week.
Placing your newborn directly in water should be avoided until the umbilical cord falls off, which occurs one to two weeks after birth. In the meantime, use a sponge bath to keep them clean. All you need is a damp washcloth, soap-free water, a towel and a changing table to place your baby on.
Once the cord falls off, you can transition to a regular bath. Use a sink or infant tub with a hard plastic surface. Some parents opt for the kitchen sink due to space – just be sure to clean it beforehand! One other thing to consider – the water for the bath should be no hotter than 120 F. Anything hotter can burn your baby.
How much do newborns sleep?
On average, newborns should sleep about 14 to 17 hours per day, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Ultimately, it depends on the baby – some newborns are less active and may sleep longer for 19 hours per day while more active newborns may only sleep 14 to 15 hours.
Since they eat every two to three hours, you should expect them to be awake eight to 10 times per day. Newborn wake windows tend to be between 30 and 60 minutes. For example, if your newborn only stays awake 30 minutes between feeds and averages eight feeds per day, they’ll sleep around 19 hours per day.
How often should a newborn poop?
Breast-fed newborns have more frequent bowel movements due to the enzymes in human milk compared to cow’s milk (formula). When a baby is born, the pancreas (the organ responsible for converting food to energy) isn’t fully developed. Human milk makes up for this by including more enzymes and proteins to boost digestion. These naturally occurring substances can’t be entirely replicated by man-made formula.
Why does this matter? The faster food digests, the quicker it passes through the gastrointestinal tract and exits the body as stool.
Breast-fed babies usually have three or more bowel movements per day, while formula-fed babies may have fewer. However, it’s common for babies drinking formula to only have one bowel movement a day. Meanwhile, breast-fed babies may have a bowel movement at each feed (eight times per day).
How many wet diapers should a newborn have?
If you ever have concerns about your newborns feeding or growth, their diaper is always the best place to start. Healthy babies should have one to two wet diapers the first day after birth before increasing to around two to three wet diapers.
Once a week has passed, expect this number to increase to five to seven wet diapers. Some newborns need a diaper change after every feed. A wet diaper indicates your child is eating well enough to stay hydrated. The urine color should remain clear to pale yellow. Urine that is consistently darker in color would be a cause for concern.
What color should newborn poop be?
Determining what the various colors of your baby’s poop mean can keep you up at night. Unlike adults, newborns routinely change color, and most of the time it isn’t any cause for alarm.
In the first few days after birth, newborn poop resembles dark green sludge – thick and tarry looking. This is called meconium, which contains a combination of amniotic fluid from the pregnancy, dead skin, mucus, bile and bilirubin.
Once that passes, you can expect the stool to loosen up and turn green, yellow or light brown. Breast-fed babies typically have watery, yellow or green stool that is seedy like mustard. Stool from formula-fed babies is more pasty and can be lighter in color.
If you notice black-, white- or red-colored stool, this should prompt a call to your newborn’s pediatrician. Red poop can indicate blood, while pale poop can signal problems with the liver.
While the tips mentioned in this blog are to be used as general guidelines, please contact your pediatrician with any specific questions related to your child. They can provide more information on feeding, weight gain and sleep schedules.