Your newborn has been home for just a few weeks, and you’re still getting used to taking care of him – especially if you are a first-time parent. Your infant does not talk, so he can’t tell you when he has had enough to eat. Because it is up to you to offer him what he needs, it is important to know what his needs are and how to know when he has had enough breast milk or formula.
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Your Baby's Needs
Your baby needs only breast milk or formula for the first six months of life, and he will let you know when he is hungry. Though he cannot talk, he becomes more active or alert, may put his fist into his mouth or make a sucking motion. Your baby is “rooting” when you stroke his cheek with your breast or a finger and he turns his face in that direction, looking for food. At 1 month of age, he needs to nurse approximately eight to 12 times in 24 hours for 10 to 15 minutes per breast. Babies have a growth spurt about 10 to 14 days after birth, with a second spurt at 3 weeks of age. During these times, they are hungrier than normal. If your baby is formula-fed, prepare the usual amount of formula, plus an additional 1 or 2 oz., recommends BabyCenter.com.
Tracking Milk Intake
Because you can’t measure how much breast milk your baby drinks in one feeding, the best way to determine if he is getting enough to support his nutritional needs is to monitor how many diapers he uses. If he is drinking enough, he should have four to six wet disposable diapers or six to eight wet cloth diapers, plus three to four messy ones, in one 24-hour period, states the University of Michigan Health System. If you use disposables, these hold more fluid than cloth diapers, which is why your baby needs fewer disposable diapers in one day. The second way to figure out if he is eating enough is to track his growth; ask the doctor to show you his progress on a pediatric growth chart.
When Baby is Full
Your baby is very good at knowing when he is full; he is letting you know he has had enough breast milk when he releases his mouth from your nipple. Learning how to interpret his nonverbal signals is important to his future health, weight and ability to develop healthy eating habits. If you are bottle-feeding, it is important to know that while no one wants to waste formula, this is far less important than his learning to recognize and follow the cues that tell him when he is full.
A good measure of how much formula to prepare for one 24-hour period is to multiply the baby's weight by 2.5. So if he weighs 7 lbs., you should prepare about 17.5 oz. of formula for that day, according to BabyCenter.com. As you learn to follow your baby's cues – “hungry” cry, mouthing his fist or rooting – you’ll figure out that he wants to eat approximately every two to three hours. When you first bring the baby home from the hospital, offer him 1 to 2 oz. formula per feeding. Then, in one or two weeks, offer him 2 to 4 oz. at a time. He'll start drinking more formula per feeding, decreasing the total number of bottles he drinks in one 24-hour period.