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Newborn basics

Baby feet in a bassinet

Newborns, unfortunately, do not come with instruction manuals. However, we can offer a few tips to help you keep your baby safe and healthy. Based on clinical experience and research, we’re sharing our best advice about eating, sleeping and more.  

Prefer to listen to these tips? Check out our Newborn Basics podcast episode here, or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

How often should you feed a newborn?  

Eating is one of a newborn’s primary activities. You can’t feed a newborn too often, but you can feed them too little. Some babies will want to eat every 30 minutes and others may go up to 2 hours between feedings. If a baby is going more than 4 hours between feedings, you should wake them up to feed them. 

Newborns are learning how to eat. An average feeding may take 15-20 minutes on average, but don’t get hung up on the length of time. Focus on whether the baby is satisfied. This may look like them getting sleepy or looking content and comfortable. The amount of milk they consume varies. Their stomach is the size of an acorn when they are born, so they can’t consume a lot at once.  

How often should a newborn sleep? 

Newborns sleep up to 18 hours a day, often in several short sleep sessions. They should be woken up every 4 hours to eat if they aren’t waking up on their own after that time.  

How do I keep my newborn safe while they sleep? 

Remember the ABCs of safe sleep. Baby should sleep… 

  • Alone, on their 
  • Back in a 
  • Crib. 

This means they should sleep without blankets, pillows or any other items. They should not sleep on an adult mattress or anywhere other than their crib or bassinet. These tips will reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  

How do I soothe my newborn? 

Remember the 5 S techniques: 

  • Sucking on a breast, bottle or pacifier lowers your baby’s heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels.  
  • Swinging your baby in your arms recreates the movement of being in the womb. 
  • Swaddling baby’s arms tightly to their sides recreates the feeling of being in the womb. 
  • Side Lying or Stomach Lying while you hold your baby relieves pressure on their belly.  
  • Shushing mimics the blood flow sound from the womb, calming your baby. 

What immunizations does my newborn need? 

  • Hepatitis B. This vaccine is given right after birth to prevent bloodborne diseases.  
  • Vitamin K. Technically, this is not a vaccine, but a vitamin shot. Infants are born with low vitamin K, which helps with blood clotting. If any type of bleeding should occur, vitamin K prevents anything traumatic from happening.  

How do I ensure my newborn’s healthy growth and development? 

Responding to your newborn’s needs is the best way to help them grow and develop. Feeding them, holding them, soothing them and interacting with them are all ways to aid their development.  

Remember—parenting a newborn is a learning process and parents don’t need to be perfect to be good at parenting. If you have questions or concerns, reach out to your child’s pediatrician. In the meantime, trust your gut and know you are doing a great job.  


Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine; Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Kansas School of Medicine