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Babies are generally sleepy the first few days of life and often need to be encouraged to feed about every three hours. After the first few days, it’s best to feed your baby when he or she is hungry. Feeding needs are unique, so each baby will feed differently.


  • “I want to eat” cues: Crying, mouthing, rooting, and hands to mouth. Try feeding your baby. If your baby doesn’t feed, change his or her position or adjust the bottle or nipple.
  • “I need a break or rest” cues: Crying, spitting up, choking, arching of back, pulling away, and looking away. Allow your baby time to rest. He or she will turn back to you when ready to feed again.
  • “I am full” cues: Arching of back, pushing away, falling asleep, open or relaxed arms along side of body. Stop the feeding. If your baby just needs to take a break, he or she will give you cues when ready to feed again.
  • “I just want to be with you” cues: Smiling, looking at your face and eyes, turning head toward you, and reaching out to touch you. Allow time during feeding to play and talk to your baby.
  • “Suck and pause” cues: During the feeding, your baby will suck about 10 to 15 times and then pause for three to five seconds to rest before sucking again. This pause is a good time to talk to your baby and allow him or her to look at your face.


  • Breastfeed 8 to 12 times every 24 hours or about every 1 1/2 to 4 hours.
  • When using the cradle hold, your baby’s entire body should face you, chest to chest, at breast level; his or her nose and chin should touch the breast.
  • To help baby latch-on correctly, support your breast with four fingers underneath and thumb on top; be sure that your fingers are well behind the areola (the dark area around your nipple).
  • Lightly stroke your baby’s lips with a downward motion until the baby’s mouth is wide open (like a yawn) with the tongue down, then bring him or her to your breast.
  • Your baby should take in the entire nipple plus a half to one inch of the areola into the mouth; if your baby gets only the nipple, break suction, remove the baby and try to latch on again.
  • Your baby will suck several times, pause for a moment, then suck again several times; you should see movement of baby’s jaw, ears, and temples with each correct suck.
  • Let your baby finish at the first breast before offering the second breast as he or she receives more hindmilk (milk that is richer and higher in fat) as the feeding continues.
  • Alternate the breast you begin with at each feeding and air-dry your nipples afterward.
  • It is normal to feel a strong pulling sensation when your baby is breastfeeding. You may feel some tenderness when your baby first latches on, but you should not experience pain throughout the entire feeding. The most common cause of nipple soreness is incorrect positioning.
  • The first few days after delivery, before your mature milk “comes in,” your baby receives colostrum, which is rich in nutrients and immunities, but limited in quantity.
  • Expect a minimum of 1 wet diaper on the first day, 2 wet diapers on the second day, and 3 wet diapers on the third day; your baby should have at least 1 stool in the first 24 hours, increasing in frequency with each day.
  • Once your mature milk is in, expect 6 or more wet diapers in a 24-hour period (usually by the fourth or fifth day); the urine should be a pale yellow color.
  • Your baby should have at least 3 to 4 yellow, loose and seedy stools per 24 hours.
  • Your baby should be content after feeding.

Formula feeding

Amount and feeding schedule
  • Initially, your baby is fed on demand a 1/2 to 1 ounce per feeding.
  • At the time of discharge from the hospital, most babies will drink 1 to 2 ounces of formula at each feeding, every 3 to 4 hours.
  • When your baby begins to finish all of the formula at each feeding, it may be time to increase the feedings by a 1/2 ounce.
  • Discuss the amount and type of formula to feed your baby with your healthcare provider.
How to feed your baby
  • Make sure you and your baby are comfortable at feeding time; the baby should be warm and dry.
  • Sit in a comfortable chair using pillows for support if necessary.
  • Cradle your baby in a semi-upright position and support his or her head. The closeness of face-to-face contact is very important for you and your baby.
  • Tilt the bottle to fill the nipple with formula.
  • Stimulate the baby’s rooting reflex by stroking the nipple against the cheek near his or her mouth.
  • Do not prop the bottle as it can cause the baby to choke.
  • Do not warm formula in a microwave. The formula may be unevenly heated and burn your baby’s mouth. Instead, warm the bottle in a dish of warm water.
  • It isn’t necessary to boil tap water for mixing formula.
  • Only store your baby’s formula preparations in the refrigerator up to 48 hours.
  • Wash all parts of the bottle in hot, soapy water using a bottle brush and rinse well; you may also wash all parts of the bottle in a dishwasher.
  • Burp after each 1/2 ounce of formula, or at least every 3 to 5 minutes during feeding. Your baby may need to be burped more frequently depending on the infant’s needs.
  • There are two holds:
    • Hold your baby upright with his or her head on your shoulder, support the head and back and gently pat your baby’s back.
    • Sit with the baby on your lap, support the chest and head with one hand, and gently pat your baby’s back with the other hand.
  • Don’t be alarmed if your baby spits up a few drops when being burped.
Spitting up
  • Your baby may spit up if he or she has eaten too much at one time.
  • Place your baby in an upright position or infant seat for five to ten minutes after feedings to reduce the chance of spitting up.
  • Do not play with or over-stimulate the baby immediately after feeding.
  • Frequent or large amounts of spitting up may indicate a problem and should be discussed with your healthcare provider.

Babies often have hiccups, especially after feeding. Hiccups usually stop on their own in about 5 to 10 minutes.

Using a bulb syringe

A bulb syringe should be somewhat close by in case you need to remove excess mucous or formula from the back of the mouth. If so, follow these steps to remove the excess fluid:

  • Only squeeze the bulb syringe when pointed away from baby’s face and before placing it in the mouth.
  • Gently insert the tip into the corner of the baby’s mouth or nose and release pressure on the bulb. Do not insert the tip too far as this will cause gagging or sneezing.
  • Remove the tip and squeeze the bulb to expel collected mucous or formula onto a baby wipe or towel.
  • Do not repeat this process too many times as it can cause irritation.
  • Use warm, soapy water to clean the bulb syringe after each use. Check to make sure it doesn’t have water in it before using it again.

VirtuaBaby content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you’ve read on VirtuaBaby. If you think you are experiencing a medical emergency, call your  doctor or 911 immediately.

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