Newborn infants typically feed around eight to 12 times per day and will be able to go longer in between meals as they grow. By 10 weeks, most babies will take four to six ounces of breast milk or formula at a time–sometimes even more.
But remember that a baby's stomach is about the size of her fist, so she shouldn't be expected to eat too much at each feeding. By about four months, many babies do the majority of their feeding in the day and the bulk of their sleeping at night, so short daytime naps are not unusual.
For infants who seem to eat small amounts very frequently through the day, here are some things to consider:
1. Could there be a problem with the baby's digestive tract? Talk to your pediatrician and make sure your baby is growing normally. Let your doctor know if your baby vomits or has problems with urinating or bowel movements.
2. Are you feeding the baby at times when she's not truly hungry? A fussy baby who wants to sleep more may still take a bottle if offered. This could interrupt longer naps and might make her less hungry when it's time for a real feeding. Avoid the temptation to feed your baby just because she is crying. A pacifier or clean finger (yours or the baby's) might do the trick.
3. Some babies (usually newborns) fall asleep easily at the breast or bottle and need a little encouragement to continue. Techniques to keep baby awake include gently stroking her feet, changing her clothes or diaper, and (if drastic measures are needed) giving her a bath before finishing off the meal.
4. Patterns of short feeds and naps can be normal in many babies who are transitioning from the newborn period to a more "grown-up" routine. Keep following your baby's cues: feed her when she's hungry and allow her to sleep when she's not and eventually she will settle into a better pattern.
Jennifer Shu, M.D., F.A.A.P. is a board-certified pediatrician in Atlanta. Her passion is educating parents on all topics relating to children. Dr. Shu is editor-in-chief of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Baby & Child Health: The Essential Guide from Birth to 11 Years and co-author of the award-winning book Heading Home with Your Newborn and Food Fights, both published by the AAP. www.jennifershu.com