I've been told to feed my baby every 3 hours, but they sometimes seem hungry sooner than this...
I often hear from parents that they’ve been told to feed their newborn baby every 3 hours, but that their baby “seems to want a feed early” (i.e. before the 3 hour mark), and that they weren’t sure whether that was okay?
Most young babies actually breastfeed 8-12 times over 24 hours. Yes, really!
There is good research that shows that most babies have AT LEAST 8 feeds each day. The range in this study was from 6 to 18 feeds in 24 hours, and the average number of feeds per day was actually 11. (Only a few babies managed to get enough milk with less than 8 feeds per day.)
I’m not sure why, but this information is STILL often passed to parents as “babies need 8 feeds in 24 hours” (i.e. every 3 hours) – and somewhere along the way we have lost the “AT LEAST 8 feeds” message.
Once we know that most young babies actually feed 8-12 times per day, then we can see that a natural pattern of feeding might be 2-3 hourly…and we can follow their lead.
As I’ve mentioned before, babies have a complex set of in-built reflexes that help them to signal or “cue” to their parent what they need, including when they are hungry, and therefore we should feed our baby according to THEIR CUES.
If your newborn baby seems hungry, feed them – no matter what the clock says. If you’re not sure whether they’re hungry, still feed them and see what they do (!) Their feeds may not be evenly spaced throughout the day (just as our adult meals and snacks are not) – sometimes babies cluster feed, having a few feeds close together, and this is normal.
The first few weeks of your newborn’s life are about getting to know each other, responding to their cues, building their trust and noticing the patterns of feeding and sleeping and waking that YOUR individual baby naturally falls into.
Please get in touch if you need further information or support to help you find your happy feed! Shona x