Feeding a newborn baby is exhausting, especially if you’re breastfeeding! New parents can expect to feed their newborn baby at least eight times every 24 hours (for more info, see this Dr. Pam Q&A).
Most newborns feed every 3-4 hours, however some may need to feed as often as every two hours (see this Dr. Pam Q&A). This can be hard if you need to start each two hours from the time you started your last feeding, not two hours from the time you finish the last feeding… meaning you may have an hour or less between the time baby has finished feeding and the time you need to start the next one.
Our feeding and sleep program recommends feeding newborns every 2.5 to 3.5 hours to help create flexibility for parents and consistent meal times. But for a variety of reasons your baby may not be ready right away (more about when to start here). You should always consult with your baby’s healthcare provider first.
I had to feed my first baby every 1.5 to 2 hours for health reasons which was not easy exclusively breastfeeding/expressing milk. It was such a relief when my physician gave me the okay to feed every three hours. Feeding my second baby every three hours from day one was much easier.
Below are five common reasons why your baby may be feeding so frequently.
1. Health reasons
As mentioned above, you should only start to feed in 2.5 to 3.5 hour intervals when you get the okay from your baby’s healthcare provider to feed that often.
2. It’s your preference
There is no one parenting approach that works for everyone. If feeding more frequently or demand feeding when baby wants to feed works best for you, go for it!
Habits can form in as little as a day or two. If you’re interested in a feeding and sleep schedule, keep in mind that your baby doesn’t know what breakfast, lunch, dinner times are until they learn — they’ll follow your lead if you guide them.
If you’re transitioning to longer periods between feedings, your baby may wake up at night to feed out of habit even if they aren’t hungry (even if their diaper is dry and clean) just for a cuddle. Babies are smart and it’s easy to get wrapped around their cute little fingers! For tips to help stay on track and avoid certain habits, read this post.
4. Growth spurts
You should always feed your baby when they are hungry! Even if your baby has been consistently feeding every three hours, there may be times that you need to feed them more often. If your baby is going through a growth spurt, they may finish a full feeding then wake up hungry 1.5 hours later for another full feeding! Find out when to expect growth spurts here.
5. They’re not getting enough milk
Another reason your baby may need to feed more often is because they are not getting enough milk, causing them to wake up from sleep to feed every hour or two. This could be caused by a few things. For example, Mom may not be producing enough milk, baby may be lethargic (sleeps too much), or baby may not be latching to your breast properly. If you’re bottle feeding, make sure the hole in the nipple is large enough so that the milk flows for them — formula tends to be thicker than breastmilk so over time you may need a larger round hole in the nipple or “y” tip.
One girlfriend told us that her baby was not getting enough milk at feedings because of a tongue tie and couldn’t latch properly. Baby would exhaust himself trying to breastfeed and fall asleep on her. It wasn’t until the issue was fixed that he was able to latch properly and finish a full feeding within an hour or so (i.e., the band of tissue below the tongue was surgically cut by baby’s physician, which also took a few weeks to heal).
Consult with your healthcare provider if you’re concerned about your baby’s health (including if you think they’re sleeping too much), or if you have breastfeeding concerns such as latching or supply.
Find out how to extend your baby’s feeding times to every three hours (from every two hours or less) here.