Feeding your newborn

The general recommendation about newborns is to feed them on demand. This means you should breast- or bottle-feed your baby whenever he or she seems hungry rather than setting a strict schedule. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breast-feeding your baby for at least 1 year, using breast milk exclusively for the first 6 months.1 This means not supplementing your baby's diet with water, formula, juice, cereal, or other foods. After 6 months, the AAP recommends gradually introducing other foods to your baby while continuing to breast-feed.1

During the first few days or weeks, on-demand feedings occur every 1 to 3 hours (about 8 to 12 sessions in a 24-hour period) for breast-fed babies. Formula-fed babies may have slightly fewer feedings, about 6 to 10 every 24 hours. You may have to wake a sleepy baby to feed in the first few days after birth.

These early feedings often are short. Sometimes a newborn nurses or drinks from a bottle for only a few minutes. Over time, feeding sessions will become longer. You will learn to recognize when your baby is satisfied with enough milk.

Babies younger than 4 to 6 months should be fed only breast milk or infant formula. Around 6 months of age, you can gradually introduce solid foods.

Do not give your baby any milk other than breast milk or infant formula until he or she is 1 year of age. Cow's milk does not contain the amount of fat and iron that very young babies need to grow and develop properly. Also cow's milk may contain too much protein for young babies.

Citations

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics, Section on Breastfeeding (2005). Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics, 115(2): 496–506.

Last Updated: March 19, 2009

Author: Debby Golonka, MPH

Medical Review: Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics & Kimberly Dow, MD, FRCPC - Neonatology

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