Bringing a newborn into the world is a beautiful and sometimes overwhelming experience, especially for first-time parents. Each time I brought one of my babies home I felt how much my family had changed. I loved it but it was overwhelming. In the first few weeks, your life will be consumed by feeding, diapers, and sleep. This is normal. Understanding more about how much your newborn needs to eat and sleep can be a huge stress reliever so let’s jump in.
Understanding Newborn Stomach Size
The First Few Days
In the initial days, a newborn’s stomach is tiny, about the size of a cherry. This means frequent, small feedings (sometimes called cluster feedings) are the norm. Colostrum, the first milk produced by the mother, is rich in nutrients but don’t be surprised if it takes a few days for your milk to come in. Some moms need to supplement with formula during this interim. Talk to a Lactation Consultant if you have questions or concerns about your supply.
As your baby grows, so does their stomach. By the end of the first week, it’s approximately the size of a walnut. This allows for increased feeding amounts, but you may need to continue those cluster feedings to regain their birth weight.
Around the third to fourth week, the stomach expands to about the size of an apricot. While this allows for slightly larger feedings. You may notice your baby is taking 3 oz at a time or breastfeeding for a few minutes longer. Your milk supply should be well established by now and beginning to be regulated. You can start working on a more predictable eat, play, and sleep pattern.
How Much Should a Newborn Eat in 24 Hours?
Newborn feeding amounts can vary, but a general guideline is 1 to 3 ounces per feeding in the first few weeks, gradually increasing as the baby grows. In 24 hours, newborns typically consume around 16 to 32 ounces of breast milk or formula. Keeping track of your baby’s weight gain is very helpful. If your baby is breastfed and you’re just not sure how much they’re taking in buy a scale and weigh baby in their diaper before and after feedings. It’s not exact but it can give you a general idea of how much they’re taking in.
Nurturing Sleep: The 45-Minute Rule
Newborns have small stomachs, but they also need frequent sleep. In the first few weeks, newborns often need to sleep every 45 minutes to an hour. Feeding during wakeful periods rather than using feeding as a sleep aid can have several benefits.
- Preventing Reflux
Feeding a newborn to sleep can contribute to reflux issues because they are lying down on a full stomach. Allowing a short wakeful period before feeding reduces the likelihood of spit-ups and heartburn.
- Avoiding Overfeeding
Feeding when the baby wakes, rather than feeding to induce sleep, helps prevent overfeeding. One of the biggest mistakes new parents make is assuming a fussy baby is a hungry baby. If your baby has eaten within the last 60 minutes try for a nap instead of a feed.
- Building Healthy Sleep Associations
All newborns can sleep. We want to help facilitate this by laying them down every 45 minutes and giving them the chance to sleep naturally. Sleep associations occur when we, as parents, do all the work to get them to sleep. You will have to help your baby sleep sometimes, they will fall asleep feeding, in the car, on your shoulder, it’s normal. However, being intentional about sleep from the beginning can lay a foundation for success in the long term.
A Holistic Approach to Newborn Sleep Shaping
Understanding your newborn’s stomach size, feeding needs, and sleep patterns allows you to approach parenting with confidence and education. Balancing nourishment and rest is an evolving process, so be patient with yourself and your baby as you navigate this beautiful journey together.