Breastfeeding A to Z

How Often is Your Baby Eating? Week 2

It is normal for your two-week-old baby to be eating 8 or more times in 24hours.

This averages out to be about every 2-3 hours and feedings are usually not more than 3-4 hours apart.  This means it is also normal for them to eat 9-12 times per day.

It is important to feed your baby on demand.

Let your baby be your guide as to how frequently they want to eat and for how long–not the clock.  Your baby has not read the information that says eat every 2-3 hours, their only means of communicating with you is to cry.  If you feel like you have just fed your baby, but no other comfort measures are calming them–it is ok to feed them again.

You will learn to understand their cries, just by caring for your baby on a daily basis.  If you think it is too soon to feed your baby again, try other means of soothing or comforting your baby.  You can try rocking, changing a diaper, swinging, swaddling or wrapping them in a blanket, or a car ride.  If nothing is working, it is fine to try feeding them again.  We do know that it is difficult for baby’s to gain weight if they don’t eat at least 8 times in 24 hours (1)

Remember if you’re hungry, you head to the fridge or the cupboard–baby’s only option is to fuss and cry.

By the time your baby is one week old their stomach is roughly the size of their closed fist(so it isn’t a very big place).  It holds about 1 1/2-2 ounces (45-60 milliliters) (2)  Because breastmilk is easily digested, baby’s stomach empties out in roughly 60-90 minutes. (3)  As to how long before your baby wants to eat again, it will depend on how long your baby’s tummy is willing to wait.

Often by two weeks of age, babies are getting more efficient at eating.  But 45-60 minutes can go by, by the time you feed them on one side, burp and/or change a diaper and offer the second side.  This will be a faster or slower process depending on your baby’s breastfeeding style:  gourmet “savors feedings”, barracuda “eats fast and done”, or a style all their own.  One other thing you may start to see at 2 weeks of age, is often called cluster feeding.

Cluster feeding is when the baby will nurse or breastfeed very frequently for several hours (even every hour–or it may feel like one feeding for several hours!) and then typically sleep for a longer stretch of time (maybe even 4-5 hours). Think of it as your baby tanking up before the long sleep.  They have to eat more frequently for a period of time in order to sleep for a longer period of time.  The advantage of going with this pattern of eating is the longer stretch of sleep.  Often the stretch of sleep your baby chooses is not when you would normally be ready to sleep–try to rest anyway–but it is developing a pattern that can help your baby sleep longer and eventually be at “night” time.

You may start to think of cluster feeding as a feeding frenzy.  Your baby will have eaten.  You think they are finished.  And then they will start to fuss and not be content.  You use all your comfort measures:  rocking, moving, singing, swinging, a stroller ride, a car ride and nothing is helping.  So you feed them again.  This is cluster feeding.  In order for your baby to tell your body to make more milk, the baby has to nurse more.  This will be a harder part of the day.  Often babies have this pattern of eating in the early evening hours, when you are tired and have less patience.  If this cluster feeding or feeding frenzy does become a pattern, try to arrange your day so the workload at that time of day is minimal.  By preparing for it, you will be able to handle your baby’s demands better.  Ideas for preparing for it could include any or all of the following:  1. Putting dinner in the crock pot, or having cereal (you’ve hit 2 food groups); 2. Take a nap earlier in the day; 3. Ask someone else to make dinner or take care of other children during this time of day if possible.  I’m sure you can come up with some ideas of your own.

References:

  1. Lawrence, RA, Lawrence, RM, Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Professional, 7th edition, Maryland Heights, MO, Elsevier Mosby, 2011, p 276.
  2. La Leche League international, What is colostrum?  How does it benefit my baby?  Stomach size of a newborn, Available at, http://www.lalecheleague.org/faq/colostrum.html  Accessed on Sept 15, 2015.
  3. Wambach, K, Riordan, J, Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, 5th edition, Burlington, MA, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2016, p 274.