You are here

Is My Newborn Eating Enough?

Birth to six months

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does recommend nursing 10 to 15 minutes on each breast, 8 to 12 times a day. But breastfeeding isn't an exact science, and, unfortunately, many moms make the mistake I did and look to these guidelines as if they were the law.

"When you give moms, particularly young moms, a hard rule, they worry when their child doesn't fit that rule," says William H. Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., editor of The AAP Guide to Your Child's Nutrition and director of the division of nutrition and physical activity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Many healthy babies won't breastfeed according to AAP guidelines. Variables, particularly in the intensity of a baby's suck and the force of a woman's letdown (the reflex that causes the release of breast milk), can affect how much an infant is getting at each feeding. For example, my daughter may have gotten more milk in 7 minutes than another child would in 20.

A better measure of whether your child is getting enough to eat is how frequently she is urinating and how satisfied she seems, says Dr. Dietz. Look for six to eight wet diapers a day and three or four with stool, says Carol Huotari, research librarian at the La Leche League Center for Breastfeeding Information in Schaumburg, Illinois, and a certified lactation consultant. Because disposable diapers are designed to feel dry, she says, they can be deceiving. She suggests pouring a ΒΌ cup of water in one and checking it to get the feel of a wet diaper.

Moms who choose formula have a better handle on how much their babies are eating -- they can measure it. Most young babies consume two to three ounces at a feeding, for a daily total of two to three ounces per pound. But formula-fed infants have surges and drops in appetite just like the rest of us; a baby may guzzle at one feeding, and then wait longer until the next and be fine.

Weight gain may be the most important factor in determining whether a baby is eating properly. Some weight loss after birth is normal, but a baby should not lose more than 10 percent of his weight in the first few days (that's about 13 ounces in an eight-pound baby).

A breastfed baby may initially lose more weight than a bottle-fed one because her mother's milk has not come in, or they're both still learning to breastfeed, says Marianne Neifert, M.D., Babytalk contributing editor and author of Dr. Mom's Guide to Breastfeeding. If a breastfed baby isn't gaining enough weight, a doctor may recommend supplementing with formula. Weight loss in a bottle-fed baby is more alarming since it isn't a milk-supply problem.