If your newborn is never able to go 2 to 3 hours between feedings, your baby may be snacking all day instead of getting full feedings. Let’s talk about newborns and full feedings.
As a new mom, I thought “feed on demand” meant that I was supposed to feed Ella anytime she cried, no matter the reason. At every whimper, I’d offer a feeding - she would pop on, nurse a bit, and pop off. I didn’t realize that she was snacking instead of getting a full feeding.
In those early days, I didn’t know how to read my newborn’s sleepy cues and so I interpreted every cue as hunger. I didn’t have the tools to help her when she was tired. This was actually leading to poor feedings and a whole lot of snacking. She was feeding every hour and not sleeping.
Feeding and sleep are so interrelated, which is why I’m so glad to have lactation consultants and counselors on my team. I asked Blakely, an IBCLC on the Taking Cara Babies team, to talk about some of the most common questions surrounding snacking, full feedings, and sleep. I’d love for you to hear from Blakely before we dive into all of the details.
Why are full feedings so important for babies (and parents)?
1. Full feedings lead to a baby who is content between feedings.
2. Full feedings allow for parents and babies to enjoy active awake time.
3. Full feedings help us respond to hunger needs appropriately instead of assuming every cry is a hunger cry.
4. Full feedings allow for adequate daytime calories which allows for more consolidated sleep at night. Let me show you this example:
5. When nursing, full feedings help babies get the perfect balance of protein and fat that is vital for growth and development.
For breastfeeding Moms, those first few weeks are establishing your milk supply. Full feedings can help with this because the more milk that is removed, the more milk your body produces.
Is snacking the same as cluster feeding?
Snacking and cluster feeding are different. There can be times during the day when your baby feeds closer together. This is generally in the late afternoon or evening and is often called cluster feeding. This can be normal for both nursing and bottle fed babies. The difference between cluster feeding and snacking is that snacking is happening all day, whereas cluster feeding happens closer together for a portion of the day.
How do I help my newborn stop eating every hour and prevent constant snacking?
1. Know what hunger cues look like.
2. Help your baby stay awake while feeding. Wondering how? Keep reading!
3. Try waiting 15-30 minutes before feeding. She often won’t be hungry enough to eat well if she just ate 45-60 minutes ago.
4. If you’re bottle feeding and struggling to get more than an ounce or two, consider going up a nipple size.
Should I put my newborn on a feeding schedule?
No, you shouldn’t. Research shows that it’s important to follow hunger cues instead of a rigid clock schedule. It’s vital that we feed our hungry baby.
How do I keep my baby awake during feedings?
1. Undress your baby and get her skin-to-skin with you. Skin-to-skin contact encourages sucking and helps keep your baby awake while feeding. This is great for both breast and bottle-fed babies.
2. Take a quick break and lay him down in the middle of the floor. Sometimes just being away from your warm body will wake him up a bit.
3. Try rubbing a damp cloth on her face and chest.
4. Do a diaper change before a feeding and again half-way through the feeding.
5. Ensure that your baby has a proper latch.
How much should my newborn be eating in 24 hours?
I know that so many parents want a number, but the answer is truly different for each baby.
Some questions to ask yourself if you’re concerned that your baby is not getting enough are:
Is your baby content between feedings?
Is your baby gaining weight and staying on his growth curve?
Is your baby able to go 2-3 hours between feedings?
Talk with your pediatrician if you have any concerns.
How do I know if my newborn is full?
When your newborn is taking full feedings, it can be easier to know if they are truly full after a feeding. Here are some cues that we see when a newborn is full:
Her hands are relaxed and open instead of curled into fists.
If you lift up his arm, it drops heavily instead of your newborn pulling it back towards his body.
Your baby is content at the end of a feeding and able to go 2-3 hours before the next feeding.
Please know that you might not see all of these each time.
How do I set up a routine with my newborn?
My First Five Months Bundle will help you do just that: set up a flexible routine that is responsive to your baby's cues. I'll walk you through setting your days and nights up for success as you lay a healthy sleep foundation with no crying involved. Let me show you how to meet your baby right where he or she is developmentally and love the newborn stage.
Be sure to give yourself and your baby grace! You and your baby are both learning together. If your baby is simply not satisfied between feedings and can never go longer than two hours between feedings, please work closely with your lactation consultant and pediatrician. They are your best resource in navigating feeding struggles. My classes are designed to help you learn how to balance those feedings and sleepy cues to help your family thrive and enjoy the newborn stage.