From birth, babies follow their internal hunger and fullness cues. They eat when they're hungry and then stop eating when they're full. Experts agree that newborns should be fed on demand. This means that you bottle- or breastfeed your infant whenever he or she shows signs of hunger, rather than setting a strict schedule.
How often your baby needs to eat will depend on your baby's age and how hungry he or she is at that moment. Here are some things to expect or try as your newborn grows.
At about 3 weeks, you can try to delay feeding for a short time by cuddling or talking with your newborn. Your newborn's nervous system is mature enough that he or she can wait longer between feedings and interact with you more at this age. But take cues from your baby. Don't force your baby to interact when he or she is not engaging with you or seems very hungry.
You might be able to limit nighttime feedings if you avoid socializing with your baby and lingering after he or she has finished eating. Your baby will feed and go back to sleep easier if he or she is calm.
If you want to give your baby more attention during nighttime feedings, plan for a time you can rest the following day to avoid fatigue.
By age 2 months, many babies start to eat less often at night.
At age 3 to 4 months, babies become more and more interested in the world around them. Babies often interrupt feedings by looking around, smiling, cooing, and reaching for a parent's face. This is a normal attempt to turn feeding times into a more social event. It's a good time to interact with your baby.
At about 6 months, most babies can start to eat solid foods. Some babies may be ready for solid foods at 4 or 5 months. Solid food is given along with breast milk or formula.
You may be surprised at the number of diapers your newborn goes through every day. It's important to change your baby's diaper, because urine and stool can irritate your baby's skin.
Paying attention to your newborn's diapers can give you clues about your baby's health. Call your doctor if your baby doesn't regularly produce wet or dirty diapers.
It's sometimes hard to know the number of wet diapers a newborn has. That's because disposable diapers work so well to wick moisture. In general, though:
Many newborns have at least 1 or 2 bowel movements a day. By the end of the first week, your baby may have as many as 5 to 10 a day.
Your newborn's stools usually will change from black to green in the first few days. Then they will change to yellow or yellowish brown by the end of the first week.
Breastfed babies typically have more yellowish stools than formula-fed babies. They also tend to have stools more often.
Sleep habits are influenced by a baby's temperament and feeling of being well fed. They're also influenced by how the parents respond when the baby wakes up. Some babies naturally seem to need more sleep than others.
Sleeping patterns vary with each child and slowly evolve over the first year.
Most newborns sleep for about 18 hours each day. They are awake for short periods at least every 2 to 3 hours. When your newborn wakes up, they will usually be hungry and need to be fed. This pattern dominates your baby's first few weeks.
At first, babies often sleep through loud noises. But at about 3 to 4 months of age, many babies become easily disturbed by noises like the phone ringing or a dog barking.
During a baby's first few months, the brain matures. The baby gradually can sleep for longer periods. By age 3 months, most babies sleep for their longest period (up to 7 to 8 hours) during the night and develop set nap times. They are also more alert when awake than they were when they were younger.
At about 3 to 4 months, start bedtime rituals to help your baby relax. Read a story, play quiet music, sing, rock your baby, or give your baby a gentle massage. Avoid loud music or sounds and bright lights.
Sleep patterns often change during the second half of the first year. By 9 months of age and into the second year of life, it can be hard for some babies to let go of the excitement of the day. Also at this age, many babies want to exert control over their actions. Because of these things, your baby may resist going to sleep at the times you want. To help get on a regular schedule, stay with your routines when your baby resists going down for a nap or going to bed at the usual time.
Sometime between 12 and 24 months of age, your toddler will probably resist a morning nap and want to rest only in the afternoon. A child's attempt to switch to one nap a day often occurs at about 18 months of age. Many doctors recommend keeping both naps as long as possible for both the child's and the parent's benefit.
A toddler's excitement about learning to walk and their emerging independence may disrupt afternoon nap schedules. When your child resists taking a nap, you can block out time in the afternoon for a quiet period. Even if your toddler doesn't nap, they usually still need a restful break.
You can help your baby become a good sleeper. Here are some ideas.
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