All about feeding your newborn

newborn feeding

By Sara Keli

When you finally give birth to your baby after a long, nine-month wait, it’s an exciting and emotional time. And then you are sent on your merry way with a bunch of brochures, a few numbers to call and lots of good wishes. 

Can those good wishes help feed the baby in the middle of the night? Well, no, they can’t … but what can help is arming yourself with knowledge around the challenges of newborn feeding.

How often to feed your baby

If you’re breastfeeding your baby, you may be feeding your baby every 2-3 hours. And if they are cluster feeding, it may feel like they are never not feeding! If you are breastfeeding, you can feed your baby as often as they indicate they are hungry – i.e. demand feeding. It may take you a while to work out their hunger cues but once you can tell their hungry cry from their tired cry you will be on the right track.

If you are using a baby formula, you will likely follow a feeding schedule of every 2-3 or 3-4 hours, depending on your baby’s size and weight. Be guided by your baby’s hunger cues as well as the advice you receive from your medical team. 

How much to feed

Generally, you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby. Your baby will drink until they are full and your body will produce the right amount of milk for your baby. It’s quite genius really! As long as your baby is having frequent wet and dirty nappies, they are getting enough milk. 

However, if you are bottle feeding your baby – whether with expressed breastmilk or formula for newborns – you can overfeed them. You need to follow the recommended guidelines along with your baby’s cues to ensure they are getting the right amount of milk.

Sleep and feeding

Ah, the elusive sleep that all new parents are searching for. The reality is that in those early days and weeks, your baby will more than likely wake at regular intervals during the night to feed. Newborns have very small stomachs and so need to feed through the night. Eventually, those intervals will stretch out and you will be able to get more sleep through the night. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!

If you are breastfeeding and want to get a little more sleep through the night, you might choose to express some milk and use bottles for newborns so your partner can feed the baby while you sleep. Read parent reviews on the best bottles for newborns so you can choose a bottle that will suit your baby. Make sure you don’t skip too many feeds or it may impact on your supply.

Some parents find that using a dummy helps their little one settle a little easier for sleep. Read reviews of the best dummy for newborns to help you decide which one to buy.   

Where to find help with newborn feeding

Part of the challenge of newborn feeding is that every midwife, doctor and well-meaning family visitor will give you a different piece of (often contradictory!) advice about how to feed your baby. It can leave you feeling very confused and like you aren’t doing anything right. The trick is to find the piece of advice that works for you. 

If you are still struggling with feeding your newborn, the best people to reach out to are trained professionals such as your GP, child health nurse, a lactation consultant or the Australian Breastfeeding Association

Feeding time is a beautiful opportunity to connect with your baby, no matter whether you choose to breastfeed, formula-feed, or practise mixed feeding. It is a time that you are both awake and calm, enjoying each other’s company, and building a beautiful bond that will last for a lifetime.

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