Copyright Babies First Lactation and Education

The Newborn’s Stomach

I see many new families in the hospital, breastfeeding clinic, and in their homes with my private practice, and I hear many common questions.  One of the recurring themes comes across in statements like “my baby can’t be getting very much” or “my baby is feeding so frequently, I must not have milk. This cannot be normal!”  There are many charts on the Internet that show an illustration of the size of a newborn’s stomach, I felt putting these illustrations into real world sizes we can see would be helpful.

Below is an illustration I have created showing the approximate size and volume of a newborn’s stomach on day one, day three, at one week, and at one month.  Newborns’ tummies are tiny, and cannot/should not take in large volumes, so they need to feed frequently.  In the first day or two, their little tummy fills with 2-15 ml during a breastfeed, and then, snuggled in close to your warm chest and familiar heartbeat, they fall asleep.  Just as you may be drifting off to sleep or decide that you too should eat something, they start to wake up and show signs of hunger; their sweet little fists fly frantically to their mouth and their lips start smacking together.  Their little tummies have started to digest that perfect amount of colostrum, and they are starting to get hungry again.  A newborn baby feeds 8-12+ times in 24 hours, which means they will be feeding about every 1-3 hours.  After the first 24 hours and for the first week or two the baby should feed the minimum of 8 times in 24 hours to ensure they stay hydrated (shown by pees and poops), assist with things like jaundice and weight loss/gain, establish Mom’s milk supply properly and get lots of practice at the art of breastfeeding.

They often cluster feeds together; this means your precious little one may breastfeed for 45 minutes then fall asleep, then wake 30 minutes later and feed for another 30 minutes, and fall asleep.  The next feed may happen 2 hours later, then 3 hours after that, then an hour later… I’m sure you get the idea; there is no set schedule.  This is the best way to establish a healthy milk supply and to allow baby to control when they eat and how much.  You can not breastfeed your baby too much, but you can breastfeed them too little.

Many families feel the need to supplement their baby; maybe they are concerned with the frequent feedings, or feeling pressured from their doctor or family.  I often hear my clients comment that they hear their well-meaning family members say “The baby is crying again, she must be hungry” or “The baby is fussing, are you sure you have milk?” or “the baby just ate an hour ago, you must not have enough if he is hungry already.”  This can create, or further feed the insecurity a new mother may already be feeling, and often leads to unnecessary supplementation.  Some families feel they need to supplement due to pressure from the Doctor, and other families are supplementing for legitimate medical reasons (these reasons should be clearly communicated to you).  When you are supplementing it is crucial that you keep in mind how small those little tummies are.  If you supplement too much this will cause baby to sleep longer and feed less frequently and any time they are supplemented away from the breast you losing the stimulation  and removal of milk needed to signal your body to make more milk; this will directly impact your milk supply.  If you are supplementing always seek guidance from an expert in feeding- a board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) will help guide you through how to supplement, how to protect your supply while supplementing and how to wean the supplements when the time is right.

Understanding the size of your Baby’s stomach, the average volume taken in during a breastfeed and typical newborn feeding frequency can help alleviate some anxiety a mother feels when she is trusting her body to nourish her child.  Newborns are only this tiny for a short time, those stomachs grow quickly and they get more efficient at breastfeeding which means breastfeeding sessions become less frequent and shorter.  For now enjoy those snuggles, and feel encouraged that your baby is feeding frequently and doing a fantastic job of “demanding” a healthy supply of breast milk.  The great effort you and your baby put in during the first few days establishes a solid start for a happy and healthy breastfeeding relationship.

Copyright Babies First Lactation and Education

Copyright Babies First Lactation and Education

Katie Wickham RN BScN, IBCLC

84 thoughts on “The Newborn’s Stomach

  1. Katie

    I am 7 months pregnant and have a 2 year old I wish I’d read this before my first baby, I was told my milk wasn’t “in” and to supplement from day 3. I ended up taking motillium tablets to increase my milk and ended up having 3 massive seizures, my husband had to call an ambulance and I completely lost 2 days. I don’t remember a thing. It was so scary. I have been getting a little anxious but now with this info I am ready to give it all I’ve got. Thank you
    Katie W.

  2. Suzanne

    Thank you for offering the possibility of supplementation. When my son was born 21 years ago, weighing over 9 pounds, I was advised by the lactation consultant to never supplement. Even when my son seemed dissatisfied and became irritable, she told me that an infant doesn’t require much and that I should avoid bottles. At two days old my son was listless and running a fever. He spent several days in the hospital, with the diagnosis being that he was dehydrated. I nursed him as much as he wanted, but his frustration was his way of telling me he wasn’t getting enough. I agree that many babies can thrive in those early days with very little true milk, but I think mothers need to follow their instincts and never feel guilty if they believe their child needs supplementation. Natural is optimal, but it may not work for everyone. Thank you for allowing for that possibility without imposing judgment or guilt.

  3. Rachelle Bere

    I am a health visitor in Swansea and have a particular passion in breast feeding . I have exclusively breast feed both my children for 12-13months when they naturally weaned off. I love the way your have described how to ensure successful milk supply, it is how I try to explain the importance of just allowing free access to the breast. The barriers I come up against in practice is that new parents cannot comprehend the demand on them and other health professionals suggest formula top up way too soon. I am torn as have friends who have not fed for long and appear to be quite distraught at their failure. Obviously my role is to support women In their parenting choices while ensuring their optimal mental health . However, I feel that the modern working women , so used to a full busy productive life , are the biggest barrier to successful exclusive breast feeding. Women struggle with the demands on them from a newborn! How do I as a professional encourage exclusive breast feeding which I am truly passionate about , without undermining their overall mental Heath and maternal confidence?

  4. Oleta

    Dear Katie,

    Thanks for your encouraging piece.

    I am very blessed to have been able to excusively breastfed my triplets with support from a friend-of-a-friend peer support worker, a long chat with a triplet mother who breastfed her babies & a great team of midwives. (One of the three did need one to two bottles of formula milk a day as well from 2-4 months of age). I have also been fortunate enough to be able to still breastfeed them all now at 2yrs & 3 months of age.

    My question is: How have you calculated your measurements on the size of a day 1 newborn stomach etc?

    I only ask because the xrays that I frequently see in day 1 newborn babies are nothing like the tiny size that you’ve described & measure far larger, many times over, in the natural unfed state. (I.e. in babies who haven’t been fed any milk yet and whose stomachs fill naturally with air, showing what is known as a stomach bubble). Likewise with the size of day 2, day 3, premature babies etc.

    By definition, xray vision is much more accurate than guessing so I’d be grateful if you could confirm which method has been used for the sizes that you are quoting please?
    It’s just that it’s quite important for us as Mum’s to receive information from accurate sources if we’re going to use the information to develop our beliefs and opinions.

    Many thanks in advance for your response.

  5. Guadalupe sanchez

    I was wandering if I could order one of your newborn stomach capacity poster, could you replay back and tell me how I could get a poster?

  6. Alycia

    Hello and thank you for the chart and detailed information. I was wondering if you could share more information on the consistency of breast milk. My daughter is almost 6 months old and 5oz for one feeding is way too much for her. She eats about 3.5 to 4 oz if bottle fed (occasionally) and sometimes doesn’t finish all of it. I know that your milk gets thicker to provide more calories. A lot of people tend to think that the older a baby gets, the more volume they need to consume, and that isn’t necessarily true. Thank you again for the valuable information.
    Alycia Long

    1. babiesfirstblog Post author

      Hello Alycia,

      Every baby is very different and the ranges are just that ranges. As you can see on the image it says 2.5-5 oz so some babies may take from the breast 2.5oz some may take 5oz and each feed may be different. All that matters is that they are having good diapers, are growing, and developing. I hope that helps. As for consistency of milk here is information on the fat in milk:
      Thanks for you question,

  7. Pingback: Rock-a-by-Baby | Let's Colour This Life

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