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Feeding is the most important thing that parents do for their children. During feedings, your baby is awake and you can strengthen your bond with them. Advice about feeding a newborn baby is here, as well as on the About Breastfeeding and About Bottle Feeding pages.

Feeding your baby

Fed Is Best—You Can Choose How

Some parents breastfeed. Breastfeeding has important health and emotional benefits for both mothers and babies. Breast milk protects babies from infections, allergies and other health conditions. Breastfeeding helps mothers recover from the birth and also helps a mother and baby form a close bond. Some mothers need help with breastfeeding at first. Some parents feed their babies formula. Like breastfeeding, bottle-feeding is a time when parents can bond with their babies by holding them close, looking at their faces and talking or singing to them.

How Often to Feed Your Newborn

Try to feed your baby when they are hungry, not on a schedule. Watch for your baby’s signs of hunger. They may open their mouth, turn their face toward you, smack their lips or start fussing. Try to start feeding when you see signs of hunger, before your baby starts to cry. Most newborns need to be fed every two to three hours during the day and about every four hours at night. Bottle-fed babies may go longer between feedings.

How to Know If Your Baby Is Eating Enough

To know if your baby is eating enough, you can keep track of their diapers. In the first few days, your baby should have two to three wet diapers. After that, five to six wet diapers mean they are getting enough to eat.

Tongue-Tie and Lip-Tie

Tongue-tie is when the skin under the tongue doesn’t let the tongue move easily. Lip-tie is when the lip doesn’t move easily because it’s connected closely to the gum. These conditions can make it harder for babies to eat or make certain sounds. They affect a small number of babies and don’t always cause problems. Talk to your baby’s doctor if you are worried.

Burping Basics

Burping is gently patting or rubbing your baby’s back. It helps your baby get rid of the air they swallow during feedings. Here are some tips:

  • If you breastfeed, burp your baby before you switch breasts.
  • If you bottle-feed, burp after 3 to 5 minutes of feeding, or after your baby has drunk 2 to 3 ounces.
  • Have a rag ready to catch spit-up.

You can burp your baby in different positions:

  • Sitting upright in your arm, with their head against your shoulder.
  • Sitting upright in your lap, while you support their head and chest.
  • Lying on their tummy on your lap, while you support and slightly raise their head.

Food Allergies and Your Baby

Based on research, the advice about how to avoid food allergies has been changing. Instead of avoiding foods that can cause allergies, exposing babies to these foods early may help prevent allergies. For example, babies who were given peanut puffs in a study developed peanut allergies less often than babies who did not get peanut products. 

Important: The advice about allergy-causing foods is not the same for all babies. For example, babies with severe eczema should be tested for allergies before giving some foods, including cow’s milk and eggs. All parents should ask their healthcare provider what is right for their baby

If You Need Help Feeding Your Baby

For advice and help, contact La Leche League, the Arizona Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Helpline, WIC, or your healthcare provider.

If your baby has serious, ongoing trouble with feeding, talk to their healthcare provider. Feeding Matters has more information about this problem.

The First Things First Parent Kit was developed in partnership with Health Research for Action/UC Berkeley. © 2023 The Regents of the University of California. Additional video, graphic and other content © 2023 First Things First. All rights reserved.

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