Feedings: How Often Will My Baby Eat

Posted on: October 5, 2022 | Babies, education, Famillies, Feeding, Health, Infant Feeding Specialist, Information

You’re hungry AGAIN?! I just fed you. Sighs the weary new parent as she emerges from the makeshift sleeping area nearby. Cuddling and cradling the baby, she thinks to herself…how often will my baby eat? It feels like my baby is always hungry and never settled. When will I feel confident in my baby’s feeding habits? 

Feeding Hunger Cues

There are major hunger cues that your baby will showcase when they are hungry. Pssst…crying is NOT one of them! A hunger cue is a way that your baby showcases that they are in fact hungry. While some signs may make us question ourselves as parents that the baby is hungry, these signs are sure ways to know that the baby is hungry. And better yet, how the baby shows that they are satisfied. Missing these cues can result in an unhappy, hard-to-settle baby, which often gets mistaken for “colic”.

  • The baby is awake from a sleep. Sleeping burns calories and rests the body, therefore once a sleeping baby emerges from a siesta, they are (or soon will be) ready for a feeding. 
  • The baby is looking around. Once the baby has awakened from their slumber, they will “search” for their food source. They will scan the room, and observe the surroundings.
  • The baby will begin to lick their lips. Just like their parental counterparts staring down at a plate of deliciousness, babies will start to suck on and lick their lips. 
  • The baby begins to suck on their hands or suck ravishingly on a pacifier. The misuse of a pacifier can contribute to missing this as a hunger cue. Especially when the baby is going through a growth spurt.

Let’s discuss crying as a hunger cue. Crying is actually a sign of distress and every other sign (mentioned above) has been missed. Make sure to calm the baby, and yourself, down before attempting to feed. This can help ensure that the oxytocin associated with feeding flows freely. 

How Many Feeds In a Day

It is recommended by pediatricians, family practice providers, International Board Certified Lactation Consultants, etc., that a baby feeds 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period. Why the range? Because babies go through growth spurts, may come down with an illness, or have developmental delays. The frequency helps guide the baby’s nutritional intake so that the baby isn’t being overfed or underfed. What’s most important is that the feeds are full-satiated feeds. 

Approximately How Many Ounces in a Feeding 

The thing with parenting and childrearing to note is that it’s never “one-size fits all”. It may be the majority, minority, or off-the-charts, below-the-charts, but it will never be EVERY baby should be…or ALL babies should…when it comes to growth. There are two things to focus on here: how many ounces per feed and how many ounces in a 24-hour period. While both are important, every baby is different. If a baby doesn’t drink 3 ounces at a feeding, that’s okay! Their body may choose to have more frequent smaller feeds throughout their day. Which is a benefit to their developing digestive systems. Tally up the amounts of full feeds and the ounces of those feeds, and it will give you the baby’s ounces intake in the 24-hour period. What you want to watch for is 24-32 ounces in that time frame. (depending on the baby’s development and age). The goal is 2-2.5 ounces per pound of the baby’s weight per day.  

Growth Spurts & Feedings

As the days go on, your baby will go through a series of growth spurts. These are also known as leaps. Growth spurts are pockets of time in the baby’s life when their brains and bodies are transforming. In the feeding realm, growth spurts come in the form of the baby needing to feed more frequently. This could mean that your baby will want to eat every 1 to 1 ½ hour instead of the usual 2 hours stretch. Perhaps the 2-ounce drinker downed a 3-ounce bottle out of the blue for a feeding. Maybe the baby is waking up overnight for another feeding. This is all normal and expected! 

Growth spurts begin to show up a few days before the baby’s weekly turn date and can last a few days after the baby’s turn date. And guess what?! Once you think you’re out of the woodwork, here comes another one! Yes, in those first 12 weeks of the baby’s life, there are approximately 5 growth spurts or leaps that your baby will experience. Navigating a growth spurt takes patience. Also understand that this is a phase, and it will subside (until the next one!). So don’t expect your baby to eat 3 ounces now at every feeding, or want to eat every hour for the rest of their lives. It will ebb and flow. 

When to Contact Your Baby’s Provider

At Vegas Family Doulas, we are BIG components of listening to your instincts. When something feels “off” or not right, there’s a reason. Talking with your provider can aid in getting some clarity or direction when it comes to feeding, weight gain, etc. There are some tell-tale signs that your baby may benefit from being evaluated by their provider.

  1. Little or no weight gain. Weight gain comes from the baby eating and absorbing nutrients. If the baby isn’t gaining weight, that means that the baby isn’t adequately transporting milk from the food source and into the body. 
  2. Latch issues at the breast or bottle. Low muscle tones can affect the baby’s ability to pull milk from the source and into the body. Consulting your preferred provider can give referrals to an ENT or an oral-facial therapist and conduct a full assessment.   
  3. Baby wants to sleep more than they want to eat. This can be a sign of ‘happy to starve’ which in turn can turn into failure to thrive. It takes energy to stay awake, and if the baby isn’t getting the nutrients they need to fuel the body, the body will begin to shut down. Sleep becomes easier than being awake. 
  4. Breast/chestfeeding isn’t going well. Breasts/chest is sore, painful, cracked, bleeding, plugged ducts, mastitis, etc.  

You should feel comfortable enough to contact your provider with any concerns you have, whenever you have them. If you do not feel comfortable with your baby’s provider, you have the ability and the right to change providers as often as you need to feel heard and supported. Please note, not all providers are versed in lactation. An IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) is an expert in lactation. Those that hold this credential abide by the standards of the Board in regards to breast/chestfeeding. 

Your baby will eat, and they will eat often. Eating begets growth and boy (or girl) will grow in these first 12 weeks of the newborn stage. As you learn your baby’s feeding antics and patterns, you’ll begin to feel more and more confident in understanding what your baby is telling you in regard to its nutritional intake. Your baby is the best gauge for hunger and satiation. Take a moment to listen to what they are telling you, and you’ll be perfectly in sync. Vegas Family Doulas offers Infant Feeding Classes prenatally to help you get off on the right start with feeding your baby!