One of the most common concerns I hear from parents is that they say their baby is always hungry. Often these parents question whether or not their baby is getting enough to eat, and breastfeeding moms may begin to question if they are making enough breastmilk. However, parents can be comforted to know that frequent feedings are often the way of it with babies- newborns in particular. Little baby equals little tummy. Little tummies need filling more frequently.
Breastfed Newborns and Cluster Feeding
So, let's start at the beginning. Cluster feeding, also known as bunch feeding, is when your little baby feeds several times over a period of a few hours. More often than not, cluster feedings appear in the evening hours. These bunched feedings serve the purpose of ramping up mom's milk supply and also tanking up your baby on the nutrition that he needs.
What you need to realize is that 1) cluster feedings are completely normal, 2) they serve an important purpose in breastfeeding, and 3) thankfully, your baby will grow out of them (though they can reappear during periods of baby growth spurts.)
Bottlefed Newborns and Spitting Up
Parents are often surprised to know that,generally speaking, newborns only need about 1 to 2 ounces of formula per feeding. Depending on the amount in the bottle, they may need to be fed anywhere from 8 to 12 times in 24 hours.
If you notice that your baby is spitting up excessively, then a sound suggestion is to decrease the amount of formula in the bottle but increase the number of bottles you offer in a day.
Need more info: How Much Formula Does My Baby Need?
Understanding Baby Hunger Cues
Sometimes the problem is that parents are mistaking every fuss and whimper to be a sign that their baby is hungry. Here's a news flash: baby's fuss. They do. They fuss for all sorts of reasons. They are tired. They are bored. They are overstimulated. They are uncomfortable. They pooped. The list goes on and on.
Sometimes what parents need to do is be sure that something else is not causing the crying, and use different strategies to calm their fussy baby. Also, observe your baby for typical hunger cues. They may include:
- Your baby puts his hands near his mouth.
- Your baby turns his head from side to side.
- Your baby begins rooting as if to nurse.
- Your baby sucks on his hands or clothing.
- Your baby ramps up his fussy nature.
- Your baby is crying.
How Often Should Baby Be Fed?
Until your baby has regained his birthweight, the recommendation is to feed about every two hours. Keeping in mind that cluster feeding is normal, and breastfeeding more frequently than that is okay. Once your baby is gaining weight well and if the breastfeeding mom has no issues with low milk supply, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents tune into those hunger cues and feed their baby on demand rather than using scheduled feedings.
More info: How Often Should I Breastfeed?
Hungry Babies and Solid Foods
Once your baby is eating solid foods (sometime between 4 to 6 months), again you need to tune into his cues to determine if he is hungry or not. These cues can be subtle. Your baby will turn his head away, lean back in his high chair, may refuse to open his mouth, or has stopped making eye contact with you (or the spoon!).
Your baby's appetite will vary from meal to meal and from day to day. Do not bank that your baby will eat a certain amount at every breakfast, lunch or dinner. Simply watch your baby's signs and feed him accordingly.
The Importance of Wet Diaper Counts
A very important part of knowing whether your baby is getting enough breastmilk or formula is to keep track of his daily wet diapers. Depending on your baby's age, he should have a certain number of wet diapers and soiled diapers each day. If that number drops below the expected amount, it could be a sign that he is not getting enough to eat. For more information: How Many Wet Diapers Should My Baby Have?