Feeding a newborn baby comes with a lot of doubts and challenges. As a new mother, you may find it as a both exciting and a tiresome process and often tend to worry if the milk is sufficient to feed the wailing baby or should you switch over to formula.

Babies are ready to be fed within half an hour after birth and may seem hungrier during most of waking hours. If you are battling concerns on how often should you give milk to your little bundle of joy, read on.
Feed The Newborn By Dr. M. Ponn Malar Janani

Why Is Your Baby Often Hungry?

When your baby is born, the stomach is the size of a marble. A teaspoon of milk may fill the tummy completely and the initial milk is actually colostrum a clear, yellow, sticky fluid. This is ideal for first feed when your baby’s digestive system is gradually getting stronger. It is full of antibodies and nutrient-rich and cleans out the digestive tract of all harmful substances.

The reasons your baby seems hungry often:

Colostrum gets digested easily, your baby feels hungry a short time after a feed.

Suckling is tougher than sucking on a straw. It is a hard exercise and your newborn will tire quickly. He may fall asleep suckling and wake up hungry for more soon.

Crying for food is a sure sign of hunger, but when your baby is too hungry, he will be unable to latch on correctly and will not feed efficiently. He may fall asleep with his stomach half full.

Finally, each baby is different and feeds and digests milk at different rates. So, paying attention to your baby’s signs will guide you to the correct schedule.

When Should You Feed Your Baby?

Whenever your baby demands food. This is the thumb rule to correct feeding. You will know that your baby hungry when

  • He makes sucking movements with his mouth
  • He turns towards you with an open mouth when you brush his cheek
  • He sucks his fist
  • He gets fussy and irritable
  • He starts crying in obvious distress

How Often Should You Feed Your Baby?

Generally, your baby feeds 8 to 12 times a day. A newborn may feed more often and a baby in a growth spurt may also feed more often. When you think your baby needs to be fed, feed him. Babies generally wake up at night for a feed, if your baby does not wake up for a feed at night you may have to wake him and feed him around 4 hours after the last feed. If your baby continues to miss night feeds, then you will have to consult your paediatrician.

At each feed, your baby should feed compulsively for about 15 to 20 minutes and then, as his tummy is filled, take longer breaks for breath. If your breast feels soft after a feed, then your baby has fed well.

If however, your baby stops feeding within 10 minutes and your breast still feels full, your baby probably has not fed well. If this continues, consult a paediatrician.

In general, 1 to 5 dirty diapers and around 10 wet diapers per day are normal. If there is a great difference in the number of wet and dirty diapers, talk to the doctor.

- Dr. M. Ponn Malar Janani, MBBS, DGO is a Senior Registrar, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Dr Rela Institute and Medical Centre