Question: My baby boy just turned 2 weeks old, and breastfeeding is going well. He seems very healthy and contented.
Here’s why I’m worried: I read that newborns should nurse at least 8 times a day, or they will become dehydrated. My little bub nurses on demand, about every 2-4 hours. However, he sometimes sleeps a 6 hour stretch at night, so he only gets 5 or 6 feedings in a 24 hour period. How often should a newborn baby breastfeed?
Answer: It’s really pretty simple: If your baby is getting enough to eat, then it really doesn’t matter how often he nurses. If his urine and stool output is good, and he is gaining weight, then you don’t have to worry about whether he takes one breast or two, how long he stays on the breast, or set feeding schedules for him.
When evaluating weight gain, remember that most babies lose 7-8 oz in the first couple of days after birth, regain that weight by the time they are 10-14 days old, and then gain 4-8 oz each week for the first three months. Once breastfeeding is established, he should be back up his original birth weight by the end of his second week.
While the average newborn will take both breasts at a feeding and nurse every 2-3 hours or more, you have to remember that in real life, there is no such thing as an “average” baby. Every baby is unique, and so is every nursing mother. Mothers who have abundant milk supplies and efficient let down reflexes, or larger breasts with more milk storage capacity, may need to nurse less frequently than mothers with smaller breasts, low milk supplies, or whose babies don’t nurse effectively for a variety of reasons.
The only way a healthy baby would become dehydrated would be if he was severely deprived of nutrients, to the point where more fluid was going out than coming in. This is not going to happen if the mother knows the signs of adequate milk intake (see “How to Tell If Your Newborn Baby is Getting Enough Milk“) and keeps track of her baby’s weight gain.
If you’re really worried, have his weight checked with a medical scale. Many doctors don’t charge for an office newborn weight check. If he’s back up to his birth weight or above at 2 weeks, then you can stop worrying about how often he nurses and let him set the pace.
Anne Smith, IBCLC