How Often Should a Newborn Eat? (Including Printable Schedules!)

Whether you’re nursing or formula-feeding, you may wonder: how often should a newborn eat? We’ve got the scoop—complete with printable feeding schedules.

Whether you're nursing or formula-feeding, you may wonder: how often should a newborn eat? We've got the scoop—complete with printable feeding schedules.

Amazingly, babies are ready to be at the breast shortly after childbirth. This beautiful phenomenon is so common it even has its own name: the breast crawl. But once baby’s had their first taste, you might start to wonder: how often should a newborn eat?

In this post, we’ll cover:


How Often Should a Newborn Eat?

How often your newborn should eat depends on whether you are breastfeeding or formula-feeding and how old your newborn is. And though there are general guidelines for both, it’s important to remember that these figures are just estimates—you should consult your pediatrician about what’s right for your baby, especially if baby is having trouble gaining weight.

How often should a newborn eat if you’re breastfeeding?

  • First 24 hours: Feed on demand or at least every 2-3 hours. Remember: Your baby may only drink ½ ounce of colostrum in total in the first 24 hours. But even though your baby drinks only a little, it can take up to 45 minutes per nursing session, especially if your baby is sleepy.
  • First month: Feed on demand or at least every 2-3 hours during the day and 3-4 hours during the night. This works out to be about 8-12 times per day. Keep in mind that babies go through cluster feeding sessions and growth spurts where they might be nursing every 10-45 minutes!

These guidelines just discuss how often a newborn should eat. To learn more about how much a newborn should eat, check out this post.

How often should a newborn eat if you’re formula-feeding?

Is your baby formula-fed? Formula is digested more slowly than breast milk, so formula-fed babies don’t have to eat as often in the beginning. (source)

  • For the first month: Expect a formula-fed baby to want to eat about every 3-4 hours.
  • By six months: By the time your baby is halfway through the first year, expect to feed them about four to five times per 24 hours.

Not sure how much formula your baby needs to eat at each feeding session? Head over to this post to learn more about the specifics of how much a newborn should eat.

Newborn Feeding Schedule for Breastfed Babies

If you’re expecting your first baby, it’s natural to wonder: how often should a newborn eat.? You might even seek out a newborn feeding schedule to help simplify things. But do you really need a feeding schedule? Should you use a feeding schedule?

Feeding schedules for breastfed babies are more like guidelines for mamas who like to see the specifics. The bottom line is: Each baby will be different, and some babies eat more—or less—often than the average newborn. The most important thing is to follow baby’s lead by feeding on demand. 

Feeding on demand also helps regulate your milk supply. Because your body only makes what your baby needs when your baby needs it, it’s important to let your baby tell your body what it needs.

That said, if you’re schedule-oriented and would like to see a sample of what a feeding schedule could look like, this chart can help:

Sample feeding schedule for breastfed babies

Breastfed – How Often Should a Newborn Eat (Including Printable Schedules!) baby post by Mama Natural

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Newborn Feeding Schedule for Formula-fed Babies

It is a little easier to create a feeding schedule for formula-fed babies, because you can easily track exactly how much formula your baby drinks. That being said, follow your baby’s cues. If your baby is turning away from the bottle, he might not be hungry.

Check out this chart to see what a feeding schedule could look like for a formula-fed baby:

Sample feeding schedule for formula-fed babies

Formula-Fed – How Often Should a Newborn Eat (Including Printable Schedules!) baby post by Mama Natural

Even if you breastfeed your baby every 2-3 hours, baby may still display hunger cues, like:

Why Does My Baby Want to Eat More Often Than That?

  • Fussiness
  • Rooting
  • Sucking on fingers
  • Sticking out tongue

What gives?! 

Growth spurt

When babies nurse like this, some mamas worry that their milk supply is compromised. However, more often than not, this type of behavior is related to cluster feeding—a common sign of a growth spurt.

Comfort

The constant demand to nurse can also be your baby’s way of seeking out comfort from mama. While it seems like a pacifier could serve the same purpose, studies show that comfort nursing calms and soothes your baby by reducing cortisol (the stress hormone) in your baby’s body. (source) These sessions can also boost mama’s endorphins and help with emotional bonding.

Witching hour

Like it or not, sometimes babies are just… fussy. There’s a very real thing called the witching hour—it’s a time of day, usually towards the evening hours, when baby cries a lot and generally wants to eat a lot.

Remember…

Schedules—while helpful—are just rough guidelines. Having guidelines helps demystify baby’s feeding needs, but following baby’s cues is the best way to keep baby fed and hydrated.

If you suspect baby hasn’t had enough to eat, look out for signs of dehydration, including unusual lethargy, a lack of wet diapers (baby should have at least 5-6 wet diapers per day after the first few days), or a sunken soft spot. Contact your pediatrician or local emergency room immediately for help.

How About You?

How often did you feed your newborn? Did you follow a schedule or feed on demand? Share your comments below!

Genevieve Howland

About the Author

Genevieve Howland is a childbirth educator and breastfeeding advocate. She is the bestselling author of The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth and creator of the Mama Natural Birth Course. A mother of three, graduate of the University of Colorado, and YouTuber with over 85,000,000 views, she helps mothers and moms-to-be lead healthier and more natural lives.

1 Comment

  1. Where is 1-6 months for breastfed babies on the schedule? It skips from 0-4 weeks to 6 months.


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