IT’S hard to know exactly how much to feed your newborn, particularly since they can’t speak or communicate.
But there are some cues to pick up on, parenting expert Sophie Pickles tells Fabulous, so you’ll always know when they’re full.
“You can tell that your baby is finished feeding when they release the breast, or stop feeding and fall asleep (sometimes with the nipple still in their mouths),” Sophie says.
“When your baby has finished feeding on one side, give them time to rest and snooze before offering the other side.
“If they are still hungry, they will begin to feed again, otherwise they will continue to sleep or turn away to let you know that they are happy and full.”
If you’re bottle feeding, babies tend to pull away or start fussing at the bottle.
When this happens, Sophie says to stop for 10 minutes and then try again.
“If they still seem disinterested then you know that you can wait until the next feed and a fresh bottle,” she says
Sophie points out that it’s quite common for newborns to fall asleep before they have had enough milk.
“You can gently rouse them and encourage them to keep drinking by blowing softly on their face, gently squeezing their hands or feet, or giving them a little jostle,” she explains.
This will often be enough to wake them and start them feeding again.
So, how do you know if they’re feeding enough?
Sophie says: “As long as your baby is gaining weight as they should, has enough wet and dirty nappies and seems happy and content after feeding, there is no need to worry if they are getting enough.”
But it’s important to remember that measuring your output by expressing isn’t accurate and it isn’t helpful to time a breastfed baby’s feed.
Time in between feeds can vary drastically depending on the weather, your baby’s mood and developmental stage, Sophie explains.
“Instead, look for cues that your baby is hungry and feed on demand,” she says.
Hunger signs include:
- Sucking on hands and fingers
- “Rooting around” by nuzzling or headbutting your chest or other parts of your body
- Wriggling and getting restless
- Opening and closing their mouth and sticking out their tongue
- Licking their lips
Signs that your baby is probably full:
- Baby had fallen asleep at the bottle and seems content
- Pulling away from the bottle or breast, or turning their head.
- Fussing or crying and refusal to drink
If your baby refuses more than two or three feeds in a row, Sophie advises speaking with your health visitor or GP as there may be an underlying cause.
Different types of feeding
No two babies will feed the same so it’s a good idea to understand what you could be in for.
If you find that your baby seems restless and unsettled and wants to feed more than normal, it is likely due to a growth spurt – which can happen at any time.
“This is called ‘cluster feeding’ and is a completely normal way of your baby letting your body know that their milk needs have increased,” Sophie explains.
“You will find that your baby wants to feed very regularly, or even constantly, for a day or two.”
Cluster feeding is very common in the first 2 to 3 days of your baby’s life as they work to bring your milk in, after initially getting only colostrum – a yellow, nutrient-dense first milk that is high in antibodies and antioxidants.
While it can be exhausting (and painful) for the breastfeeding mum it isn’t a sign there isn’t enough milk, but rather the “very clever way” your baby is able to communicate with your body to control their supply, Sophie explains.
Another type of feeding s called flutter sucking which refers to the slow, fluttery feeding that babies often do as they become drowsy at the breast.
Sophie says: “You could be forgiven for thinking this means they have finished feeding, when in fact, they may be trying to stimulate another let-down.
“If they continue flutter sucking for a long time without another let-down, then you can gently take them off the breast by putting your little finger into the corner of their mouth to break the suction.
“They will soon let you know if they wanted to carry on.”