How Much Should Newborns Eat?

This page contains information about babies who are born at full term and addresses the typical course of breastfeeding. The advice offered here may not be suitable for a premature baby or a baby who is in NICU. Those parents who have special circumstances should talk to their breastfeeding counselors. Also, read "breastfeeding a premature baby." 


How Much Should Newborns Eat?

Breastfeeding your baby as soon as possible after birth will encourage milk production and will provide your baby with colostrum, which is filled with immune boosting properties. Placing your baby skin-to-skin with yourself will help regulate your baby's temperature and will help to get breastfeeding off to a good start. See skin-to-skin benefits. 

Colostrum is produced in tiny amounts because your baby only needs a small amount of this very potent milk (often referred to as liquid gold).

Why is Colostrum so important?

  • Colostrum is a natural laxative that helps to clear a baby's digestive system. 
  • Colostrum also helps to prevent jaundice by removing any excess red blood cells from your baby's system. 
  • It prepares your baby's digestive tract for mature milk.

Did you know that your newborn baby's tummy is only the size of a cherry on day one? 

Between day 3 and 5, your mature milk will start to come in and your baby's tummy will be able to hold about 40ml per feeding. By the end of the first week, most mothers will be producing about 500ml per day. 

It is normal for breastfed babies to lose some weight after birth, but they should gain it all back by day ten after birth. 

It is essential that all mommies are aware of the fact that breastfeeding works on a supply and demand basis, the more you breastfeed (or, the more milk that is removed from the breasts), the more milk will be produced. 

From one month onward your milk supply will have been fully established and will usually stay consistent (if your feeding routine stays the same) until the time you stop breastfeeding. 

After your milk supply has been established (between 6 - 12 weeks), the average milk volume that a baby drinks at each breast per feeding is 75ml, making it an average of 150ml per feeding session. Boys typically average 850ml per day, while girls drink about 750ml per day. Exclusively breastfed babies can sometimes drink up to 1400ml per day. After the initial month, feeding sessions may vary anywhere between 8 to 12 times per day and more, depending on how much milk is removed from the breast at one time. Keep in mind though that every breastfeeding journey is different. 

how much should newborns eat


How Much Pumped Milk Should I Feed My Baby?

For those mothers who are exclusively pumping...

The amount of milk your baby needs per breastfeeding session depends on their age. Please find more information about the average amounts of milk babies need per week here

baby milk intake chartBaby Milk Intake Chart for Breastfeeding


How Often Should a Newborn Breastfeed?

A newborn baby should be nursing at least 8 - 12 times per day during the first five weeks. A mother may wonder why her baby needs to be fed more often than her friend's formula fed baby. The reason for this is that breast milk is so much easier to digest than formula, it is easily moved through your baby's gut and, therefore, is absorbed quickly, leaving your baby hungry more often than any formula-fed baby. 

These early, frequent feedings are necessary to stimulate sufficient milk production. Before your supply has been established, it is necessary to breastfeed "on cue" (whenever your baby seems hungry). As your baby gets older, he/she will start to nurse less. Newborn babies will typically nurse every 1 to 3 hours and breastfeed less as they get older. Newborn babies should never go more than four hours without nursing, and this includes nighttime feedings. A feeding interval is counted from the time your baby starts feeding to when your baby starts feeding again; this may make you feel as though you are breastfeeding around the clock, but it is entirely normal, and before you know it, your baby will be breastfeeding less often. 


Hunger Signs

Crying should be seen as a late sign of hunger, it is therefore recommended to feed your baby before he/she starts to cry, as they may become fussy and difficult to calm down. Your baby may also swallow a lot of air while nursing; taking in too much air can lead to gassiness and colic symptoms. Babies don't always cry because they are hungry though, there are many other reasons mentioned here - see "why is my baby crying."

Learn more about the specific signs of hunger

what are the signs of hunger, How Often Should a Newborn Breastfeed?


How Long Should It Take to Nurse My Baby?

The time spent at the breast will vary significantly from one nursing dyad to the other. Things that may influence the time your baby spends at the breast may include:

  • If your milk supply has not come in yet your baby may spend more time at the breast. 
  • If you have a let-down reflex that takes some time. (your milk takes some time to start flowing)
  • A fast or slow flow of milk
  • Whether your baby is latching well. Ensure that your baby has their mouth wide open and has as much of your areola in their mouth as possible. 
  • The age of your baby. Older babies generally spend less time at the breast because they are more efficient at removing milk. 

If you are concerned about the length of time your baby spends at the breast, please contact a "breastfeeding friendly" doctor or lactation consultant. 

How Long Should It Take to Nurse My Baby?, How Often Should You Switch Breasts?


How Often Should You Switch Breasts?

There are many different recommendations on this subject. You need to find what works best for you and your baby. I always advise nursing from one breast until your baby seems satisfied and then offer the other breast. When the next breastfeeding session comes along, you can breastfeed from the other side first and so forth. Alternatively, you can switch breasts every few minutes during a feeding. Just make sure that your baby breastfeeds from both breasts equally during the day. If you find it difficult to remember which breast you nursed from last, you can attach a safety pin to your bra strap to remind you.


How to Know If Your Baby Is Eating Enough

You know your baby is eating enough when:

  • He/she seems content after nursing.
  • Look out for at least one to two wet diapers and stools in the first 24 hours. If your baby is producing four stools, this shows that breastfeeding is going really well. 
  • He/she is gaining weight well. (weight chart information here)

Other signs (that your baby is drinking enough) to look out for here

Some mothers like to keep a record of feedings and wet diapers for the first two weeks. You can take this to the clinic when you have your postnatal checkups and discuss any fears you may have about your baby's feeding patterns. 

Information about normal stool and urine frequency in the breastfed baby.

How to Know If Your Baby Is Eating Enough, Should I Allow My Baby to Nurse for Comfort?, Why Is My Baby Still Hungry After Breastfeeding?


Should I Allow My Baby to Nurse for Comfort?

Comfort nursing has many wonderful benefits. Comfort nursing during the first few weeks will help to build your supply; it can also be used to calm/soothe your baby. Can you overfeed a newborn breastfeeding? 


Why Is My Baby Still Hungry After Breastfeeding?

Growth spurts are usually to blame for a sudden increase in feedings. Growth spurts generally occur during the first two weeks, at two months, four months and six months and they typically only last for a few days. It is best to follow your baby's lead and nurse as much as they need to during this time. You might be concerned that you don't have enough breast milk, but the more you nurse, the more your breasts are stimulated to produce milk. 

If your baby seems to be having clustered feedings in the evenings, see "how long does cluster feeding last?"


Do I Need to Breastfeed My Baby at Night?

Night-nursing is necessary to build a full milk supply and will help your baby gain weight. It is perfectly normal for babies to wake at night to feed, whether breastfed or bottle fed, in fact, 80% of all babies wake at least once at night for a feeding. 

Do I Need to Breastfeed My Baby at Night?

By breastfeeding you are ensuring your baby has the best possible start to like!

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