Feeding On Demand

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Whether you breastfeed, provide formula or both, it is always important to feed babies on demand. Not by the clock or how much is left in the bottle. Let them eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full.

The amount of breastmilk or formula needed by an infant during a 24 hour period will vary. Healthy, full-term infants have the ability to regulate their food intake based on their needs by showing signs of hunger and satiety (or fullness).

Please note: There are some exceptions to using the on-demand feeding approach. One example is a newborn infant who is sleepy or not easily upset or excited. If a newborn sleeps longer than 4 hours at a time, the infant should be woken up and offered the breast or bottle to make sure infant gets enough nutrients.

Signs of Hunger

  • Turns head or ‘roots’ around on the chest of whoever is carrying them
  • Opens and closes mouth
  • Brings hands to face
  • Flexes or clenches arms and legs
  • Makes sucking noises and motions
  • Suck on lips, hands, fingers, toes, toys, or clothing

Signs of Satiety or Fullness

  • Slows or decreases sucking
  • Extends arms and legs
  • Extends/relaxes fingers
  • Pushes away or arches back
  • Turns head away from nipple
  • Decreases rate of suck or stops sucking when full

Tips for Parents & Caregivers

It is important to respond to these signs and not follow a timed schedule.

  • If bottle feeding, never force an infant to finish what is in the bottle if showing signs of fullness. 
  • Infants may eat less when not feeling well and more when in a growth spurt.
  • When providing formula from the bottle, start by preparing 2-3 ounces of infant formula every 2-3 hours. More should be prepared if the infant seems hungry and as the infant grows. Preparing smaller amounts at first will ensure no loss of unused milk. 
  • Do not prop the bottle for feedings. Holding your baby is important to help baby feel loved and secure, but also to watch for signs of hunger and fullness.

This post was last updated on June 23rd, 2020 at 3:19 PM

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