Why Is My Newborn Always Hungry?! Understanding The Newborn Feeding Schedule

Comic highlighting the unpredictable ways new babies nurse

Ah, the joys of newborn feeding schedules – a delightful dance of nursing, burping, diapers, cuddles, and naps, which can be both tender and sweet but also exhausting! If you’re a new parent navigating the unpredictable world of newborn hunger cues, fear not. We’ve got you covered with some tried-and-true tips to keep your little one satisfied and your sanity intact.

Understanding the Newborn Feeding Schedule

First things first, let’s debunk the myth of the perfect newborn feeding schedule. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t exist! Newborns are notorious for their insatiable appetites and erratic eating patterns. Even if this isn’t your first baby, it’s important to acknowledge every baby is different. Instead of stressing over strict schedules, embrace the flexibility of feeding on demand. Trust your baby’s cues and feed them whenever they show signs of hunger.

The “Newborn is Always Hungry” Conundrum

Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt like your newborn has a bottomless pit for a stomach! Rest assured, you’re not alone. It’s perfectly normal for newborns to seem like they’re constantly hungry, especially during the early days when their nursing sessions are part-feeding and part-stimulating more milk. So, if you find yourself questioning whether your baby is a little foodie in the making, you’re probably right! Brand new babies need to eat at least every 2-3 hours (from the start of one feed to the start of the next feed), but it’s important to know that sometimes new babies can take a while to finish a nursing session. Babies can also cluster feeds together for a few hours, which may feel like your baby wants to nurse every 10 minutes for a stretch!

But How Do I Know the Difference Between a Normal Newborn Feeding Schedule and a Baby That Needs More??

This is such a common question! And a great one too. Babies normally lose a bit of weight (up to 10% of their birth weight) in the first 3-4 days after birth and it can take up to two weeks to regain that weight. Your provider will help you track your baby’s weight. This tool from Penn State can help you understand where your baby falls on the growth curve. But between weight checks, there are other signs of how well a baby is getting milk.

  • Diaper Counts: Babies should have the same number of wet and dirty diapers as the number of days they are old (e.g. two wet and two dirty diapers on day two of life, etc.) up until day six. Don’t worry your 36 day old baby won’t hang on to that trend! After day six, you can expect things to level off.
  • Swallowing: If you watch your baby nurse, you can note whether your baby is swallowing. Usually, babies will have a few sucks followed by a breathy swallowing sound and continue that pattern throughout a feeding. Babies that aren’t transferring milk well will suck frequently without much notable swallowing.

If you’re wondering if your baby is latching well, this video is a great resource for learning more about what to look for.

Tips for Surviving the Newborn Feeding Marathon

Now that we’ve established that newborns are indeed bottomless pits, let’s talk survival strategies. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the newborn feeding marathon like a seasoned pro:

  1. Cluster Feed Like a Boss: Embrace the beauty of cluster feeding, where your baby seems to want to eat all. the. time. Ride the wave, snuggle up on the couch with your favorite snacks and drinks (see #2), and binge-watch your favorite Netflix series while your little one fuels up for the night. (I might have watched Bridesmaids half a dozen times during my first babe’s early days). If you can predict the time of day your baby cluster feeds, try to come in that time of day rested by sneaking in a nap beforehand if you can. Oh, and make sure to take your own bathroom break before you settle in.
  2. Stock Up on Snacks: Nursing is hard work – for both you and your baby! Keep yourself fueled with plenty of snacks and hydration to keep your energy levels up during those marathon feeding sessions.
  3. Take a Break: If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the 5th feed in 3 hours, ask your partner or a trusted family member to take over for a few minutes while you step outside for some fresh air or take a quick shower to recharge. Your baby will be okay waiting for a few extra minutes, especially if it means reuniting with a calmer, happier you.
  4. Seek Support: When in doubt, reach out! Whether it’s joining a local breastfeeding support group or connecting with fellow parents online, having a supportive community can make all the difference in navigating the ups and downs of newborn feeding. If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, we offer private in-home and clinic lactation support visits as well as a weekly lactation circle.

Join Us for Weekly Lactation Circles!

Starting April 18th, from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm, we’re thrilled to kick off our weekly lactation circles. These circles provide a safe, supportive space for parents to connect, share experiences, and receive guidance from our team of board-certified lactation consultants. Whether you’re struggling with nursing challenges or simply seeking camaraderie with other nursing parents, our lactation circles are here for you.

So, there you have it – your reminder that newborn feeding schedules are a little unruly at times. Remember, every baby is unique, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to feeding. Trust your instincts, embrace the chaos, and savor those sweet moments of snuggles and milk-drunk smiles. You’ve got this!

Signature card for Kelly Wong McGrath
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