How Much Should a Newborn Eat?

February 12, 2023

Trust me, it is a lot less than you think!

Is your newborn getting enough milk? Learn how often and how much a newborn should be eating.

No one ever talks about how stressful feeding a newborn can be, especially in the first couple of days and weeks. Breasting can be hard and frustrating at times (but it is all worth it!) you will definitely wonder along the way: How much should a newborn eat?

After you know some simple but essential facts about feeding a baby, you will be able to feel at ease, relax, and gain confidence.

How Much Should a Newborn Eat?

In the first few weeks, newborns eat pretty much around the clock, including midnight feedings.

There is a reason for this happening: In the womb, babies were fed exclusively by the placenta, and it can take a while for their tiny tummies to adjust to a new food source. At first, your little one will have a very tiny stomach that can’t easily stretch.

As the days go on, your baby’s stomach will start to stretch and grow until its stomach can hold higher volumes of milk.

Newborn Stomach Size

  • Day 1: 5-7 ml (size of a large marble)
  • Day 3: 22-27 ml (the size of a ping pong ball)
  • One week: 45-60 ml (size of a large chicken egg)
  • One month: 80-150 ml (size of a plum)

Breastfeeding Babies: How Much Should They Eat?

One of the most amazing things is how a newborn’s stomach size corresponds to the volume of milk a mother makes if she is breastfeeding.

  • Days 1-3: When a baby’s stomach is the smallest, a mother produces colostrum, which is packed full of immunities and awesome nutrition, and it comes in small amounts.
  • Days 3-4: Baby’s stomach size grows and mother’s milk volume increases. This is often referred to as “coming in”.

When you are breastfeeding it is difficult to gauge just how many ounces your baby is eating at each feeding. The only way to know for sure is if you pump and then bottle-feed your baby. With newborns, you should always feed “on demand,” putting your baby to the breast any time they are showing signs of hunger (rooting, licking lips, sucking on their hands).

How Often Does a Newborn Eat?

You should consult with your pediatrician to know what is right for your baby, especially if your baby is having trouble gaining weight.

  • First month: Feed on demand or at least every 2-3 hours during the day and 3-4 hours during the night (8-12 times per day).

    Note: If you are pumping full or part-time, you can expect your baby to eat about 2-3 ounces per feeding.

Formula Fed Babies: How Much Should They Eat?

Formula digests slower than breastmilk, so your baby may be able to go a little longer between feedings. With formula feeding, you will always be able to know how much your baby is eating at each feeding. You will still want to listen for your baby’s hunger cues- never force them to finish their bottle if they are showing signs of being satisfied.

Talk to a lactation consultant or a pediatrician for guidance, especially if your baby is underweight.

  • First 48-72 hours: Baby will eat 1/2-1 ounce of formula every 3-4 hours.
  • First few weeks: Baby will eat 2-3 ounces every 3-4 hours.
  • By the end of the first month: Baby will eat about 4 ounces every 4 hours.
  • By 6 months: Baby will eat 6-8 ounces 4 to 5 times per 24 hours

Why Do Newborns Eat So Often?

It is amazing how much a baby’s stomach grows in the first few weeks. A baby’s stomach still remains pretty small and can’t hold large amounts of milk at one time. So, it makes sense that your baby will need to eat frequently in the early days and weeks.

Baby’s also tend to do what is called “cluster feeding,” where they eat, sleep, and then eat again right away. During growth spurts your baby will feed more quickly to “fuel up,” hopefully to sleep longer.

Waking a Newborn for Feedings?

When you first start nursing you will want to feed your baby every few hours to establish a good milk supply. That means you should be nursing every 2-3 hours during the day and at least one time at night.

For the first two weeks of baby’s life, the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP) recommends waking your baby to eat in the middle of the night every 4 hours if they do not wake on their own.

How To Wake a Sleepy Baby

Some babies are very sleepy at first and it can be really difficult to wake or alert them enough to get the to feed. Here are some things you can try if you find yourself with a really sleepy baby:

  • Tickle baby’s feet
  • Blow gently on their face
  • Stoke baby’s cheek
  • Pat Baby’s bottom
  • Take off baby’s swaddle and nurse or feed skin-to-skin
  • Change their diaper before trying to feed them
  • Burp between breasts or halfway through the bottle

Those early weeks when you have to be diligent about making sure your baby wakes for feedings can be exhausting, but it doesn’t last forever. Once your milk supply is established, and your baby is back to their birth weight and eating regularly during the day, you don’t have to wake your baby anymore.

How Do I Know If My Newborn Is Getting Enough to Eat?

Once your milk “comes in,” about 3-4 days after birth, your baby will typically start to regain that weight. Baby should be back to their birth weight somewhere between 10 days and two weeks after birth. But don’t stress: Your baby’s pediatrician will monitor their weight and growth, and let you know if anything is amiss.

After that, you are looking for a steady weight gain. On average, babies gain 5.5 to 8.5 ounces per week during the first four months. (source) However, it’s important to note that your pediatrician will be looking for a consistent growth curve, not necessarily a specific percentile. As long as your baby is following their own curve and is healthy, there is rarely anything to stress about.

What Are the Signs My Newborn Is Getting Enough Food?

It is always important to monitor baby’s weight gain in the first few months of life. n the beginning, a certain amount of newborn weight loss is normal, especially if you are breastfeeding. A 5-7 percent weight loss during the first 3-4 days after birth is normal. If baby loses more than that, breastfeeding should be evaluated by a certified lactation consultant. (source)

Here are some good day-to-day indicators that baby is getting enough to eat:

  • Mood: Baby is content and seems satisfied after feedings
  • Energy levels: Baby is alert during awake periods (Note: Baby’s awake periods may not exceed 45 minutes at a time during the first few weeks of life)
  • Diaper output: Baby wets at least five to six diapers a day after your milk comes in.

If your baby is lethargic, refusing to eat, not putting out wet/dirty diapers, call your pediatrician right away for guidance.

Fed Is Best!

If your baby is showing any signs that they’re not getting enough to eat, it’s important to supplement. The most important thing is that baby gets the nourishment he needs to grow.