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Feeding Your Newborn: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Feeding a newborn is an important concern for parents. Experts recommend that newborns be fed on demand. This means that you breastfeed or bottle-feed your infant whenever they show signs of hunger, rather than setting a strict schedule. Newborns follow their feelings of hunger. They eat when they are hungry and stop eating when they are full.

Experts recommend breastfeeding your baby for up to 2 years or more, using only breast milk for the first 6 months. If you are unable to or choose not to breastfeed your baby, feed your baby iron-fortified formula. Babies don't need any other liquids or solids for the first 6 months of life.

A common concern for parents is whether their baby is eating enough. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about how much your baby is eating. Most newborns lose weight in the first several days after birth but regain it within a week or two. After 2 weeks of age, your baby should continue to gain weight steadily.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Allow your baby to feed on demand.
    • During the first 2 weeks, your baby will breast feed at least 8 times in a 24-hour period. These early feedings may last only a few minutes. Over time, feeding sessions will become longer and may happen less often.
    • Formula-fed babies may have slightly fewer feedings, at least 6 times in 24 hours. They will eat about 60 to 90 millilitres (2 to 3 ounces) every 3 to 4 hours during the first few weeks of life.
    • By 2 months, most babies have a set feeding routine. But your baby's routine may change at times, such as during growth spurts when your baby may be hungry more often.
  • You may have to wake a sleepy baby to feed in the first few days after birth.
  • Do not give any milk other than breast milk or iron-fortified infant formula until your baby is 9 to 12 months of age and eating a variety of iron-rich foods. Cow's milk, goat's milk, and soy beverage do not have the nutrients that newborns need to grow and develop properly. Cow and goat milk are very hard for young babies to digest.
  • Give your baby a liquid supplement of 400 IU of vitamin D every day. Follow the directions on the bottle. If you have questions about giving your baby vitamin D, call Health Link at 811 or talk to your healthcare provider.
  • If you choose to switch your baby from the breast to bottle-feeding, try these tips.
    • Try letting your baby drink from a bottle. Slowly reduce the number of times you breastfeed each day. For a week, replace a breastfeeding with a bottle-feeding during one of your daily feeding times.
    • Each week, choose one more breastfeeding time to replace or shorten.
    • Offer the bottle before each breastfeeding.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have questions about feeding your baby.
  • You are concerned that your baby is not eating enough.
  • You have trouble feeding your baby.

Sometimes, if your baby isn't feeding well, they can become dehydrated. Your baby may be dehydrated if you notice they have:

  • dark urine
  • fewer wet diapers than what's recommended for their age and how they feed
  • dry skin, mouth, and tongue

Call your healthcare provider if you think your baby is dehydrated or if you notice your baby:

  • will feed if you wake them but won’t wake up on their own to feed
  • is always sleepy
  • won’t feed or is not showing feeding cues
  • isn’t having the recommended number of wet or dirty diapers
  • chokes, coughs, or sputters while feeding
  • is fussy during or after feeding
  • wants to feed all of the time
  • has hard stools (poop) that are difficult to pass
  • has urine that’s still dark orange or rusty brown after they’re 72 hours old
  • throws up most or all of their feeding, 2 or more times in a row
  • has a lot of green, watery bowel movements that smell bad

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter B788 in the search box to learn more about "Feeding Your Newborn: Care Instructions".

Adapted with permission from copyrighted materials from Healthwise, Incorporated (Healthwise). This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty and is not responsible or liable for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.