Breastfeeding on demand is key to ensuring baby gets enough milk and the goodness that comes with it. Breast milk is also what baby needs to keep hydrated. Newborns should be woken up and fed every 3 to 4 hours for at least the first two weeks, or until their weight gain stabilises; and breastfeeding should continue even if baby is ill. Take note of what baby is depositing in his nappy, as well as his growth to determine if he’s getting the milk he needs.
The Breastfeeding Schedule
As a start, feed newborn baby every 2 hours (8 to 12 times in 24 hours) during the first 3 months. Some babies may eat several times in a short period, especially during growth spurts. As baby gets older, the number of feeding times per day may decrease or increase.
Every baby is different. Breastfeed baby on demand and pay attention to baby’s hunger cues (eg. increased eye movement, opening his mouth and stretching out his tongue while turning his head around to look for breast, making soft whimpering sounds and sucking on hands, fingers or any nearby objects). Nurse him immediately whenever is needed. Don’t wait until baby cries to put him to the breast as crying is a late sign of hunger.
When baby is sick, continue breastfeeding baby. Breast milk contains antibodies specifically tailored to help baby to fight against illness and keeps baby hydrated.
The Importance of Night Feeds
Night feeding is important because your hormones that stimulate milk production work better at night. In addition, newborn babies sleep for 16 or more hours a day and should be woken up every 3 to 4 hours to breastfeed until their weight gain is established – usually within the first couple of weeks. After that, it’s OK for baby to sleep for longer periods of time.
Most breastfed infants won’t snooze for extended periods. This is because breast milk is more easily digested than formula, and baby will feel hungry again soon after a feed.
A newborn baby’s longest sleep period is generally between 4 and 5 hours. If newborns do sleep for longer, they’ll probably be extra hungry during the day and may want to nurse more frequently.
After 3 months, a baby averages a total of 5 hours of daytime napping, and 10 hours sleep at night, usually with an interruption or two. Babies may sleep “through the night”, meaning 6 to 8 hours in a row. However, bear in mind that this varies greatly among babies.
Signs That Baby is Getting Enough Breast Milk
These are some signs that baby is getting enough breast milk:
Regular wet diapers
- After baby’s first few days, he should have at least 6 wet nappies a day and the urine should be odourless and clear, or a very pale colour. Strong, dark urine suggests that baby needs more breast milk and you should seek medical advice.
Regular bowel movements
- Baby’s poo should start turning green and then yellow. Your baby should have 3 or more bowel movements a day, although he may do this less frequently after he is a month or older. Normal poo should be yellowish and soft.
- During the first week, most infants lose several grams of weight but should be back up to their birth weight by the end of the second week. After this, your baby should be gaining weight regularly. Speak to the doctor at each visit about whether your baby is growing normally.
- Your baby should sleep well and have good muscle tone and healthy skin.
For further information on infant and child nutrition, please refer to
- MINISTRY OF HEALTH MALAYSIA (2013) Malaysian Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents. Putrajaya: Technical Working Group on Nutritional Guidelines (for National Coordinating Committee on Food and Nutrition).
- NUTRITION SOCIETY OF MALAYSIA (2011) Breastfeed with Confidence. Petaling Jaya: Mother’s Smart Choice.