After spending so long preparing for bub's welcome to the world, the first few weeks of their life can feel overwhelming.
From sleeping schedules to navigating breastfeeding, there are so many questions that new mothers have when it comes to their new baby.
This is where we come in — we're here to take you through the ins and outs of feeding a newborn, and what to expect when it comes to all things breast milk, formula and feeding.
How often should a newborn feed?
While every baby is different, the main thing to know is that you can't nurse too often — but you can nurse too little.
As a general rule of thumb, when it comes to breastfeeding in the first days and weeks of your baby's life, you should be breastfeeding as often bubs wants to nurse.
Generally, you might want to aim for 10 to 12 times per 24 hours, or every couple of hours.
It's also important to note that a newborn shouldn't go over four hours without nursing, even overnight.
Breast milk is very easily digested, so breastfed babies are hungry really often and frequent feeding sessions are a great way to encourage good milk supply and reduce engorgement.
It's similar for babies who are fed formula. You can offer your bub a bottle every two to three hours in the early days.
Formula-fed babies will often feed eight to 12 times in a 24-hour period.
Choosing between breastfeeding or formula feeding is totally up to you and only you can make that decision.
Whatever you land on, fed is always best for your baby.
And, remember that feeding your baby in the early days is a great time for skin-to-skin contact so soak it up as much as you can.
What are the signs that your baby is hungry?
Newborns should be fed on demand, so it's important to get to know your baby's early feeding cues.
Nursing at the first sign of hunger is a great way to keep the flow of your feeding schedule smooth (as well as your day).
When your baby starts to stir, put their hands in their mouth, smack or lick their lips, open and close their mouth, or suck on items or clothes or fingers, you can be sure that your baby is probably hungry.
A really hungry baby will generally also begin rooting around on the chest of whoever is carrying them, fidget or squirm, fuss or breathe fast and try to position for nursing.
In general, if your baby is crying or moving their head frantically from side to side, it's best to calm your baby first before nursing.
Is there a feeding schedule for babies?
There's certainly no strict feeding schedule for newborns but it's important you stick to nursing with them on-demand in their first early days and weeks of life.
If your newborn is really sleepy and snoozes through the night (or day), it's still important to wake your baby up every two hours (in the daytime) or every four hours (in the night) to feed them.
Be sure to engage with some skin-to-skin time with your baby while feeding as well — whether you're breastfeeding or bottle-feeding.
Some nursing mothers find it helpful to count the length of time between baby feeds from the time their baby begins drinking.
While a schedule isn't vital, it can certainly help streamline your day if you have a general idea of when your baby's next feeding session is.
As your newborn gets older, they'll need to nurse less often and hopefully will find a rhythm with their schedule.
Some babies feed every 90 minutes, while others might be okay to go two to three hours before feeding.
Whether they're consuming breast milk or formula, the schedule your baby lands on is largely dictated by their individual needs in those early weeks.
Your doctor or a lactation consultant can help with a feeding schedule should this be something you'd like to have listed out.
How long should newborns feed for?
There's no perfect amount of time that newborns should feed, but it's a good idea to have a general understanding of what works for you and your baby.
How long it takes to breastfeed completely depends on you, your baby and a lot of other factors including:
- Your breast milk supply and whether it's come in yet (milk production usually happens two to five days after birth)
- Your letdown reflex and whether it happens right away or after a few minutes (which is the mechanism that causes the breast milk to flow from your nipple)
- How fast or slow your milk flow is
- Whether your baby has a good latch
- Whether your baby begins gulping straight away or takes it slowly
- Whether your baby is sleepy or distracted
The length of time it takes to feed can also depend on whether you alternate breasts or not.
As a general rule, try to alternate sides and give each one a similar amount of nursing time each day.
This helps to keep your milk supply up in both breasts, preventing painful engorgement.
You may want to switch breasts during each feed or nurse on just one side.
When it comes to bottle-feeding, it might be a slightly quicker experience as you don't have to wait for the breast milk to flow through.
The main factor here is whether or not your baby stays awake long enough to finish the whole bottle.
If you experience a sleepy baby while feeding, try undressing them or changing their nappy as this is often enough to wake them up to finish their feed (while also getting in some skin-to-skin contact!).
Running your finger across their chin and cheek or across their back can also help wake them up.
Is your baby latching on correctly?
Regardless of how you feed your baby or the position they feel most comfortable in, it's vital that bub is latching on properly.
It can be tricky at first to figure out what proper latching is.
- The latch is comfortable and pain-free
- Your baby's chest and tummy are resting against your body so that their head is straight and not turned to the side
- Your baby's chin is touching your breast
- Your baby's lips turn out
- Your baby's mouth opens wide around your breast, not just the nipple
- Your baby's tongue cups under your breast
- You hear or see your baby swallowing
- Your baby's ears move slightly
If you find that your baby isn't latching on correctly, there are a few things you can do.
First things first, move to a quieter, calmer place to see if that makes a difference.
Hold your baby using skin-to-skin contact while both of you are undressed, and let your baby lead.
Support their neck, shoulders and hips with your hands.
Offer your breast, but let bub find your nipple on their own.
If you've tried all of these tips and bub still isn't latching correctly, consider engaging the services of a healthcare professional like a lactation consultant as they can assist you with this whole breastfeeding process.
Latching issues can also occur with bottle-fed babies and it may take a while to find teats that suit your baby's needs.
It's not a perfect science so it might take a few tries with different bottle teats until you find one your baby responds to.
Leaking breasts and sore nipples are normal if breastfeeding
Breastfeeding can be an incredible experience but it's also common for many new mothers to have trouble breastfeeding.
Sore nipples, breast milk leakages and engorgement are just some of the issues new parents can face when nursing a baby.
The good news is that in the modern world, there's a range of simple yet effective solutions that can make the experience of breastfeeding even easier.
If you feel overwhelmed by nursing and are dealing with any of the problems mentioned above, The Breastfeeding Essentials by Kin is the kit for you.
The kit includes Kin's Nipple Balm, which is made from all-natural ingredients and aids sore and dry nipples.
You can start using this before birth to prepare your nipples and continue using it while breastfeeding as it builds skin elasticity, combats dryness and prevents nipple cracking.
The ingredients are 100 percent safe for you and for your baby, so there's no need to wipe it off before feeding.
Kin's reusable Breast Pads are also included in this handy kit.
These absorb excess moisture and barricade your sensitive or sore nipples from rubbing on your bra or clothes. Made from eco-friendly bamboo, this is the perfect helping hand for nursing mums.
Is your newborn getting enough to eat?
It's totally normal to wonder whether your bub is getting enough milk, so here are a few ways you can tell.
Your baby is probably well-fed if they are:
- Nursing frequently
- Content or happy after a feed, and release the breast on their own
- Gaining weight as expected (which is usually about 155 to 240 grams per week until four months of age)
- Gulping milk obviously during a feeding session. This signals that your baby is getting larger mouthfuls of milk
- Having bowel movements three to four times per day
- Alert and active when waking up, and meeting their developmental milestones
Why won't your newborn stop feeding?
If it seems like your baby is feeding too frequently or non-stop, it's important to know that this is completely normal and common behaviour for babies who are otherwise content, gaining weight well and are generally healthy.
Babies go through different phases of feeding so unless your baby seems unhappy and unhealthy, this is generally nothing to worry about.
If in doubt, chat to your doctor or enlist the help of a lactation consultant.