Feeding your baby for the first time is exciting! Your baby may have been born prematurely or was too sick at birth to start eating by mouth. Eating can be difficult to learn. Here at UC Davis, we use Infant-Driven Feeding®. This means we look at your baby’s behavior to decide when to begin and end feedings. We want to teach you how to understand your baby, so you can provide the support he or she needs to learn to eat successfully. By letting your baby lead the way, you will provide a safe and positive feeding experience.
Babies often learn how to suck and swallow while in the womb. However, they do not learn how to breathe while eating until about 34-36 weeks. Some babies do not eat well until they reach their due date or later. Every baby is a little different and develops on their own timeline. This is why we let your baby lead the way.
We have an easy number scale that will score how ready your baby is based on their behavior. The scores range from 1-5. At every care time we will score your baby using this scale. If they score a 1 or 2, a feeding may be attempted. If they score a 3, 4, or 5, we will let them rest and see if they are ready at the next feeding time. Based on your baby’s behavior, he/she may try to eat one to eight times in 24 hours. It all depends on how your baby is feeling at each care time.
Score 1: I am awake before cares and looking hungry. I might have my hands to my mouth or be sucking on a pacifier.
Score 2: I wake up with cares and then accept my pacifier when offered.
Score 3: I briefly wake up with cares but I don’t show any rooting or interest in my pacifier.
Score 4: I am not waking up with cares.
Score 5: I am working on maintaining my stability. I might hold my breath or drop my hear rate or oxygen saturation when being card for.
The first days of eating by mouth are a great time to start breastfeeding! Babies often breathe better when next to mom’s skin. If you are able to be with your baby for at least 4 feedings a day, we would like you to try exclusively breastfeeding for three days before we give your baby a bottle. You and baby can bond and learn to breastfeed while he/she still gets nutrition from the NG (nasogastric) tube.