With the newborns, it’s all about calories and getting their tummies full. Newborns aren’t really any different than any of us in the sense that they need a set amount of calories a day just like we do. Once they get enough calories for the day, they are full and won’t need to eat anymore.
That’s why we can sleep through the night. We can eat three meals a day and get all the calories we need to sustain us through the night without waking up hungry at some point through the night.
Infants, on the other hand, need to eat throughout the night because they haven’t reached enough calories and need to eat more. One of the reasons they have to eat so often is because their stomachs are so tiny.
If their stomachs were larger, they wouldn’t need to eat as often because they could eat more in one sitting. You’ll find that as your baby gets older, he will eat more, which will sustain him for longer periods of time.
When you first bring your baby home, you’ll find that your baby probably wants to eat every two to three hours both morning and at night. This is common and there’s not too much you can do about it. Most pediatricians will recommend that you let your baby dictate when he wants to eat for the first few weeks.
After about two weeks, you can start to implement more of a regulated feeding schedule that you control. If you really want your baby to sleep through the night, feed him more often during the day. That way, he won’t need to eat as often during the night. Even if your baby isn’t crying or signaling to you that he wants to eat, feed him anyway.
At first, he may not eat much, but eventually he will grow accustomed to the feeding schedule and will start to eat more and more at each feeding, and less during the night.
Let your baby feed for as long as he wants if you are breastfeeding, and if you are bottle-feeding, prepare plenty of formula to give him. You’ll learn quickly about how much he will drink each time. If your baby is napping during a scheduled feeding time, wake him up. You will be grateful later during the night when he sleeps for longer.
Some moms even shorten the time period to two hours, but some babies struggle to eat every two hours. You can try each and see what works best for you and your baby.
This schedule is rigorous and you will feel like you are feeding your baby constantly at first. It doesn’t leave much time to get other things done. If you need to go to the grocery store, you’ll feed your baby and have to run quickly in order to make it back in time for his next feeding time.
Eventually, as your baby grows older, you can stretch the times to three hours, but only as his stomach grows bigger and he can handle more milk or formula.
By giving him as much milk or formula as he can eat through out the day, you are increasing your chances that he will sleep longer during the night without needing to eat. At first, he will probably still need at least one or two feedings through the night because his stomach is still so small, but compare that with waking every two or three hours to eat and you’ll be getting stretches of four hours or more after just a few days of implementing a strong feeding schedule.