-Neonatal Feeding Intervals

The following abstract might be of interest, given the many discussions at the PPC and elsewhere on breastfeeding newborn babies and whether or not we have realistic expectations of what this might be like.

There is insufficient evidence on optimal neonatal feeding intervals, with a wide range of practices. The stomach capacity could determine feeding frequency. A literature search was conducted for studies reporting volumes or dimensions of stomach capacity before or after birth. Six articles were found, suggesting a stomach capacity of 20ml, at birth.

A stomach capacity of 20ml at birth, translates to a feeding interval of approximately 1 hour for a term neonate. This corresponds to the gastric emptying time for human milk, as well as the normal neonatal sleep cycle. Larger feeding volumes at longer intervals may therefore be stressful and the cause of spitting up, reflux and hypoglycaemia. Outcomes for low birthweight infants could possibly be improved if stress from overfeeding was avoided while supporting the development of normal gastointestinal physiology. Cycles between sleeping and feeding  at 1-h intervals likely meet the evolutionary expectations of human neonates (Bergman NJ 2013 Neonatal stomach volume and physiology suggest feeding at 1-h intervals. Acta Paediatrica 102 (8) p773-7).

This paper contradicts the received wisdom that babies feed every three to four hours – but might be more accurate in terms of physiology and expectations. However, the researcher suggests not having any fixed routine, as each baby will vary and that it’s best to look at your baby rather than the clock.