How Much Milk Does a Newborn Really Need?
Many new mothers are anxious to know if their babies are getting enough to eat. Especially for breastfed babies, it can be difficult to gauge just how much milk a newborn is actually drinking. Parents that are formula-feeding may overfeed a baby in order to finish a bottle while mothers who are breastfeeding may worry if they are producing enough milk.
The truth is, in the first few days of life, a newborn usually needs a lot less to eat than you may think. Some pediatricians at the hospital I work with maintain the belief that a breastfed baby can go 1 or 2 days with a few small feedings before they become concerned. They base this on the fact that a newborn generally has some “reserves” that they’ve built up to endure labor and delivery and may use their reserves as energy in the first day or so following birth.
Additionally, a newborn’s stomach is actually very tiny, especially on the first day.
On his first day of life, a newborn’s stomach is actually only the size of a small marble.
Image via Flickr: RebeccaBarray
A breastfed newborn will only be drinking a mother’s colostrum (the La Leche League has a helpful guide on colostrum here) which is like highly-concentrated super milk—think quality over quantity. So usually, even though it may look like you aren’t producing a lot of milk, it’s enough to fill your baby’s small tummy. You should aim to offer your baby the breast every two to three hours, timing from the start of one feed to the start of the next, with a goal of feeding 15-20 minutes on each side.
After about the second day, when your milk starts to change in consistency and volume, or if you’ve formula fed your baby right from birth, his stomach will expand to about the size of a larger, “shooter” marble. Formula-fed babies will usually eat 1-3 ounces every three to four hours.
Image via Flickr: underwhelmer
By the end of your baby’s first week, her stomach will have expanded to the size of a ping pong ball and her feedings may increase as she goes through growth spurts. Be sure to talk with your pediatrician to ensure that your baby is on the right track with future feedings.
Image via Flickr: kenteegardin