top of page

Feeding Your Newborn

General Infant Feeding

Breast milk is the best food for babies during the first year of life.

Breast milk provides just the right balance and amounts of nutrients

that babies need for good growth and development. It contains substances that

may help protect babies against certain illnesses and allergies. If you choose not

to breastfeed or if you stop nursing before your baby’s first birthday, infant formula

provides the best alternative to breast milk.

You should keep your baby on breast milk or formula until his or her first birthday. Cow’s milk in any form – whole, 2 percent or skim – should not be given until the child is a year old. Cow’s milk doesn’t supply the balanced nutrition your baby needs, and it’s often hard on babies’ sensitive digestive systems.

Feeding Times

Babies differ in their feeding needs and preferences, but most breast-fed babies need to be fed every 2 to 3 hours and nurse 10 to 20 minutes on each breast. Formula-fed babies usually feed every 3 to 4 hours and finish a bottle in 30 minutes or less. Bottle-fed infants drink about 2 to 4 ounces at first; by the time they’re a few weeks old, their formula consumption gradually increases.

Your new baby may cry as though asking to be fed as often as every 2 hours. Keep in mind, though, that babies don’t need to be fed every time they cry. When a baby cries for a short time on a regular basis, he may just need more milk at each feeding or he may be protesting that his diapers are wet or that he’s too hot. It’s best not to get into the habit of offering frequent small feedings to please a fussy baby. Before you offer the breast or bottle, by sure your baby’s not crying for some reason unrelated to hunger.

Let your newborn set their own feeding schedule. Don’t watch the clock. They know how much and how often they need to eat.

How Much Is Enough?

How can you tell whether your baby’s getting enough breast milk or formula? The best gauge of good nourishment is growth. This is measured by weight and length. Each time your baby comes in for a check-up, we’ll weigh and measure her. It’s one reason your baby needs regular check-ups during the first two years.

Signs of a Well-Fed Baby

Looks and acts satisfied after feedings

  • Wets six or more diapers daily (after 4-5 days of age)

  • Has yellow stools or frequent dark stools (after 4-5 days of age)

Most new babies weigh between 5 ½ and 10 pounds. The average is about 7 ½ pounds. During the first days of life, infants generally lose 4 to 10 ounces; breast-fed babies may lose a little more. This is no cause for concern. It’s all part of your baby’s adjustment to the outside world, and most of the weight loss is water. By 10 days of age, most babies gain back what they lost. Healthy, well-fed babies usually double their birth weight by 5 months and triple it by 1 year.


The first few days of nursing will be a time of learning for

you and your baby. Neither of you may accomplish a lot on

your first few tries, but that’s all right. A clear or yellowish

fluid called colostrum that’s extra rich in nutrients will come

from your breasts. Although the amount will be small, it’s

close to what your newborn’s stomach can hold. At first,

your new baby will nurse often – eight or more times in

24 hours.

Rinse your nipples with plain water before a feeding; then dry

them gently. Nurse from both breasts at each feeding. As long

as you’re holding your baby in the correct position and nursing

is comfortable, there’s no need to limit the time your baby nurses

at each breast.

At the next feeding, begin at the breast where the last feeding was completed. Some breastfeeding mothers pin a safety pin to their bra on the side last used to remind themselves where to start the next time.

If you have trouble with sore nipples, make sure your baby has “latched on” correctly. Also, start nursing on the side that bothers you the least. If you need to skip any feedings due to sore breasts, express your milk by hand or with a pump at the baby’s regular feeding times so you’ll maintain your milk supply.

Eating a Balanced Diet

As a nursing mother, you’ll need to eat a balanced diet that contains 500 to 600 calories more per day than the diet you needed before pregnancy. Your daily food intake should contain a lot of protein foods and at least one quart of milk. These foods provide you with enough calcium for both you and your baby. If you’re unable to drink milk or eat high-calcium foods, ask your doctor to recommend a calcium supplement.

Foods in mothers’ diets rarely have a disturbing effect on their babies. It does happen, though, with certain foods such as tomatoes, onions, cabbage, chocolate and spicy foods. If your baby has extremely loose stools, colic, or excess gas, review your diet for the previous 24 hours. Try eliminating foods on the above list and see if it helps.

Beware of Medication

Medications taken by a mother can pass into her breast milk. This applies to both prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Examples are sedatives taken for sleep, tranquilizing agents, other mood-altering drugs, laxatives and antibiotics. If your physician wants to prescribe a medication for you, please let them know you are nursing.

When You Need to Supplement

Sometimes breastfeeding mothers need or choose to give their babies some bottle-feedings of infant formula. It’s quite possible to balance breastfeeding and bottle-feedings, but we advise new mothers against the practice until their breast milk supply is established, usually a matter of several weeks. If you do supplement with formula, you should continue to express your breast milk in order to maintain your milk supply.

Instant Formula

If you’re bottle-feeding your baby, infant formula should be the only form of milk your baby gets during the first year of life. There are three available forms: Ready-To-Feed, concentrate, and powder. The concentrate and powder forms must be mixed with water. Always follow directions on the can/bottle for mixing.

When your baby comes home from the hospital, he’ll probably take 2 to 4 ounces of prepared formula at each feeding. When he’s able to empty the bottle, start adding another ounce.

Use the Proper Nipple Hole Size

The size of the nipple hole should be large enough to let milk drip through at a steady rate without forming a stream. It the milk doesn’t form separate drops, the nipple hole might be to large. If the hole is too small, you can try to enlarge it by pushing a sterilized needle or clean toothpick through the hole.

As you feed your baby, hold the bottle so formula fills the nipple so that the baby doesn’t suck any air through. Too much swallowed air could give the baby a false feeling of being full or cause her to be uncomfortable from too much gas.

bottom of page