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Is My Newborn Eating Enough?

When my daughter, Elizabeth, was born, I was determined to succeed at breastfeeding. And it sure looked easy in all the baby books. The problem was, Elizabeth apparently hadn't read the books and refused to breastfeed the recommended ten minutes per side. I actually set a portable alarm clock and watched it nervously during feedings, and when she abandoned the second breast after only a few minutes -- or worse, fell asleep -- I became frantic.

Was my baby starving? Was I a bad mother? Instead of looking like that picture of perfect motherhood in my baby book, I spent most of our nursing sessions in tears. I was afraid to look like a failure, and thought that calls to my pediatrician should be reserved for major, life-threatening events, like broken limbs and the plague. Finally, I called the breastfeeding support group La Leche League, and they assured me that Elizabeth was normal -- some babies are just very efficient at nursing. In fact, her falling asleep after nursing was a sign she was full, not sick. At her two-week checkup, my pediatrician confirmed that she was gaining weight -- and told me that he was always available to answer questions.

Experts say my experiences -- and my distress -- are all too typical. Why are we so worried? For one thing, babies can't tell their parents why they're not eating. Wouldn't it be great if your child could say, "I'm not sick, Mommy. It's just that Daddy and the leaf blower are more interesting than my bottle." So, how can you avoid going crazy? Here, some guidelines about infant eating behavior -- and parental behavior -- specifically for her age group.