Your baby will let you know when she needs her bottle.

How Often Should You Offer a Bottle to a Newborn?

by Ho-Diep Dinh

As first-time parents, bringing home a seemingly helpless newborn and doing what's best for her may seem like a daunting task, but your newborn isn't as vulnerable as you may think. New parents play it by ear and learn to respond to their infant's needs as they emerge. Let your instincts, along with your baby's, guide you through her first few months of life. On the other hand, should you be at a loss about newborn infant requirements, you can follow a few general suggestions about how often your baby needs a bottle.

1. The First Few Months

During her time as a newborn, your baby needs only breast milk or iron-fortified formula for all her nutritional needs. Babies normally let you know when they need to be fed. Generally, you can offer your baby a bottle every couple of hours during the day. At night, feed your child when she stirs or cries -- or if you're not comfortable with this practice, you can offer her a bottle every two hours. Babies turn away from the nipple or clamp their lips shut if they're no longer hungry. Within a few days, you'll become familiar with your baby's feeding schedule, so you'll get a sense of how many hours usually go by before your infant wants her bottle. Newborn babies have small stomachs and require more-frequent feedings than older babies. Newborns usually want to be fed eight to 12 times a day, according to the Vermont Department of Health.

2. Signs Your Baby Is Hungry

Possibly the best hint of how often to offer your little one a bottle comes directly from your baby. Infants usually indicate when they need feeding. These signals include the rooting reflex, where the baby moves her mouth to an object that brushes against her lips, turning her head from one side to the other, opening her mouth, sticking her tongue out or puckering her lips. Crying is a baby's last resort to demand feeding. As your baby gains weight, she'll want more milk per feeding, so you can decrease feeding times to once every three or four hours instead of every couple of hours.

3. Feeding Changes

When you first bring your baby home from the hospital, she is likely consuming between 1.5 and 3 ounces of milk every couple of hours. At 2 months of age, your baby's need may increase to 4 or 5 ounces every three to four hours. At certain stages in her young life, your baby wants more milk than usual. These instances may occur during growth sports, at 7 to 14 days and between 3 and 6 weeks.

4. Getting Enough Nutrition

You'll get an idea of whether your newborn is getting enough milk by observing certain behaviors. If your baby is smacking her lips after a feeding, then she's still hungry and wants another bottle. Your baby should be wetting her diaper at least six times a day with three to four bowel movements throughout the day -- fewer for formula-fed babies. Each month for the first four months of her life, your baby should be growing at a rate of 1.5 to 2 pounds and between 1 to 1.5 inches in length.

5. General Rules

In general, infants should be taking in between 14 and 31 ounces of milk per day during their first month of life; by the third month, they should be drinking about 20 to 43 ounces. After each feeding, your baby should be satisfied for about two to three hours. If she is hungry every hour, then she may not be getting enough milk per feeding. Start with smaller amounts and increase this quantity if you see that your infant remains hungry after the feeding.

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