Newborn babies can drink small volumes of milk in the beginning, and the volume of milk your baby can drink increases slowly with time. A newborn baby can drink on average 20ml at birth. This translates to a frequency of feeding of every one hour. However, most mothers feed their newborns every two hours throughout the day in the first days of a baby’s life. To help you understand how often you should be feeding your newborn, here are a couple of basic facts on this subject.
A Newborn’s Feeding Habits
According to the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA), in the first couple of days of a newborn’s life, the stomach is the size of a marble. At day 10, the baby’s stomach increases to a size of a ping-pong ball. This means that the amount of milk your baby needs increases as your baby grows. Frequently breastfeeding your baby also increases your breast milk production. The reason why newborns need to be breastfed frequently is because breastmilk is easily digestible. So it’s not unusual to breastfeed 8 to 12 times in a single 24-hour period. What this means is that your baby will demand being breastfed approximately every 2-3 hours. However, as all babies are different, this feeding pattern won’t be the same for every baby.
Studies on Breastfed Newborns
A study on the breastfeeding patterns of infants in Sweden examined how mothers breastfed their newborns. All the mothers from this study claimed they breastfed their babies on demand. At week two, the frequency of breastfeeding varied from 3 to 10 times a day and from 1 to 5 times at night. As far as suckling duration goes, this also varied a lot as some babies suckled for 20 minutes during a single session and others for up to 4h and 35 min. The study also found that women who exclusively breastfed their babies at four months had a greater breastfeeding frequency and duration. This is mostly because, as explained earlier, breastmilk is easily digestible. However, the type of food given probably won’t impact a baby’s growth and health as long as it is approved by a pediatrician.
Is it Normal for a Baby to Regurgitate?
According to an article published in Science-Based Medicine, all babies regurgitate in the first months of their life and up to 18 months. Although the article states that regurgitation in babies is a result of overfeeding, the truth is that a baby’s anatomy and feeding habits make it most likely impossible to avoid occasional spitting. Babies drink large amounts of milk daily considering their body size.
Furthermore, babies are often positioned horizontally which contributes to regurgitation. In addition to this, babies probably still haven’t developed the level of maturity of processes that involve swallowing and controlling the muscles in the upper gastrointestinal tract.
The Health Benefits of Breastmilk
Researchers agree that breastmilk is superior in nutritional and other values to formula milk. So women who are able to breastfeed their newborns are encouraged to do so. The main reason why breastmilk is so important is that it enhances the immunologic system in the newborn baby increasing the baby’s capacity to fight diseases. Furthermore, breastmilk was also found to enhance gastrointestinal mucosa maturation as well as improve gut microflora. The effects of the immune system-enhancing benefits of breastmilk are long-term and improve a baby’s outcomes to fight infection once the baby grows into a toddler and even as an adult.
Healthy Weight Gain
The major concern regarding the frequency of breastfeeding is a baby’s growth. It’s normal for a baby to lose 5-10% of birth weight initially and regain this weight by week two. Medical experts speculate that this extra weight at birth is water retention caused by epidural injections. By the fourth month, a baby’s birth weight usually doubles and triples by 13 months in boys and 15 months in girls. However, keep in mind that these are general guidelines and just like feeding patterns, there’s a lot of variation among babies. How fast your baby will grow depends on the babies eating habits and genetic makeup.
You may also read: 9 Useful Tips for Taking care of Your First Born Baby
New mothers are often given clear directions by their doctors on how to breastfeed their newborn. Because the guidelines regarding proper breastfeeding are often misleading, contradicting, or seem inapplicable to your unique newborn, a lot of mothers can become anxious regarding the right or wrong way to breastfeed. For this reason, a lot of mothers today breastfeed their newborn on demand to make sure their baby is never hungry. The amount of time a mother should breastfeed is highly variable and since doctors monitor a baby’s weight gain, they will be able to give you advice to increase or decrease the amount of time you decide to breastfeed your newborn.