How Much Should a Newborn Eat?

This Could Be the Start of Something Big

Giving birth is hard work. After all, it's called "labor" for a reason. But when it's over, and you're snuggling with your newborn, all that hard work seems worthwhile. The birthing process is an exhausting job for the baby, too, so expect your newborn to be quite sleepy for the next 24 hours as she rests up for what's to come. Try offering your breast in the first hour or two after birth, while she's likely to still be alert. If she has trouble latching onto your breast, offer it every two or three hours on the first day. The baby will need plenty of nutrition to fuel an amazing upcoming growth spurt, and a good source for nutrition is "first milk."

First Milk: What Is It?

Young Mother With Her Newborn Baby

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The first nutrient provided by breastfeeding is colostrum, or "first milk." This dense, highly concentrated source of nutrients and antibodies is just what a baby needs to grow and thrive in its first few days. While colostrum is a superfood, it's low in volume, making it easier to pass through a newborn's tiny digestive system. It even has a mild laxative effect, ensuring that the baby's first stools are passed with ease. The average intake of colostrum in the first day is only 1/2 ounce, and it's produced only for the first few days of the baby's life.

Breastfeeding Baby

Breastfed babies should generally eat on demand after the first few days, according to medical professionals such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization. What this means in practice is that you'll probably be feeding your infant every two to three hours. If the baby is breastfed, it isn't necessary to measure the amount of fluid ingested. When the baby pushes the breast away or spits up during feeding, that baby is probably full.

It's important, of course, to consult with your pediatrician about your baby's progress; don't hesitate to contact her if you have questions or concerns about nutritional needs.

A Formula for Baby

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According to the AAP, after the first few days, your formula-fed newborn will drink around two to three ounces (60 to 90 milliliters) of formula every three to four hours. This is on average.

An average baby will eat 2.5 ounces of formula for every pound she weighs. So, if your baby weighs 10 pounds, she might be expected to eat a total of 25 ounces per day. But of course, no baby is average—every baby is special, with her own individual needs.

Mother Knows Best

Whether to breastfeed or use formula—or a combination of both—is a decision that only a mother can make. Although the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does confirm that there are benefits to breastfeeding, these benefits are relevant in large scale, not necessarily in any given individual case. Mother is the expert, working together with her doctor. And make no mistake, formula can be a real lifesaver. Some mothers are medically unable to breastfeed or do not produce a sufficient supply for their babies. These situations don't mean the mother herself is somehow inadequate, only that her breasts express a limited supply of milk. Also, working mothers do not always have adequate space or time for pumping breast milk.

What counts is giving your baby what she needs both nutritionally and emotionally. What's given with love is more than sufficient, no matter the source.