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Newborn feeding

  • Feeding is a time to nurture your baby emotionally, as well as nutritionally. It is important to hold, cuddle and talk to your baby during feedings. Your baby will give you cues when she is hungry:

    • squirms or has rapid eye movement while the eyes are closed
    • roots or turns her head when her cheek is stroked
    • opens her mouth and searches
    • smacks her lips
    • makes sucking movements
    • puts her hand in her mouth
    • squirms
    • cries (the last cue)

    When your baby shares these feeding cues, put her to your breast or prepare a bottle of formula. For the first couple of weeks, your baby should eat at least eight to 12 times every 24 hours.

    Newborns are normally sleepy for the first few days after birth, which can make it seem like they don't want to eat this often. However, being asleep does not mean your baby is not hungry.

    A newborn's need to sleep can override her feelings of hunger. Babies do not understand feeding schedules. Trying to keep your baby on an artificially longer pattern can cause frantic hunger.

    Hand hygiene

    Whether you are breastfeeding or formula feeding, hand hygiene is important to prevent germs from spreading to your baby or your baby's milk or formula.

    Hand hygiene is washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub.

    Perform hand hygiene before:

    • picking up your baby to breastfeed or formula feed
    • preparing to pump breastmilk
    • preparing to mix formula

    To do list

     Identify who can give you breastfeeding support, such as a friend or family member. If you don't already know, find out what breastfeeding services your hospital or clinic offers.

     Buy several nursing bras. Choose cotton cups that are not lined with plastic and two extra clasp-widths for expanded comfort. The last three weeks of pregnancy are the best time to schedule a nursing bra fitting. Your hospital birth center may provide this service.

     If you will be returning to work while you're still nursing, you may want to buy a good breast pump before your baby is born.

     Register for a breastfeeding class. Go to allinahealth.org/classes or call Allina Health Class Registration at 1-866-904-9962.

     Attend a breastfeeding support group. Call the United Hospital Baby Cafe at 651-241-5088 or the Mercy Hospital Baby Cafe at 763-236-3427.

     Attend a La Leche League meeting. For more information, call 612-922-4996 or visit llli.org.

     If possible, meet with your baby's health care provider before birth.

     If you plan to formula feed, ask your baby's health care provider what kind of formula he or she recommends.

     When you are in the hospital, ask for the help you need so you feel more confident about feeding your baby.

     Make feeding time a time to enjoy your baby.

    Forms and worksheets

    Chart your baby's breastfeedings and diapers

    Chart your baby's formula feedings and diapers

    Questions to ask when breastfeeding worksheet

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  • Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition. To avoid awkward sentences, instead of referring to your child as "he/she" or "him/her," this guide will alternate between "he" or she" and "him" or "her."
    Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic
    First published: 02/01/2010
    Last reviewed: 01/01/2016