When / How Much to Nurse

How Often to Breastfeed a Newborn

Feed your baby whenever he is hungry: I strongly recommend feeding your baby on demand, anytime he shows hunger cues like sucking, rooting, and mouth movements. (Learn more about hunger cues.) If you nurse at the early cues, baby is patient and cooperative as you work on proper positioning versus if you wait to feed till he is crying loudly, it’s much harder to calm him down to nurse.

Minimum Feeds: Most newborns ask to nurse every 1.5 to 4 hours. Babies should nurse a minimum of 8 – 12 times in a 24 hour period. Some newborns will eat 15 or more times a day. A baby’s stomach is as small as his fist, and breastmilk digests easily, so newborns need to eat frequently.

If you have an unusually sleepy baby who does not ask to be fed this often, keep him near you. Whenever he stirs at all or you see fluttering eyelids, un-swaddle him, change his diaper to wake him up, and nurse him. For more ideas on sleepy babies, see www.familyresource.com/pregnancy/16/287/

Feeding pattern: Typically, a baby will have parts of the day (often the evening) where he nurses very frequently – maybe every 90 minutes, and other parts of the day when his feedings are more spread out.

As baby gets older, feeding times become less frequent and more predictable. Most three month old babies go approximately 3 hours between feedings.

How much to feed:

On the first breast, feed the baby until he acts full: he may fall asleep, or he may let go of the breast. Or, his sucking pattern will slow down until he is pausing more often than sucking. At first, expect it to take 20 – 45 minutes per feeding. This time will get shorter as you and baby both get more experienced.

After he seems finished on one side, give him a chance to burp, then switch to the other side to nurse for as long as he wants. He may or may not take the second side. On the next feeding, start on the breast you finished this feeding on.

Minimum: You should always nurse a newborn for 10 minutes or more on the first side, If she falls asleep in less then ten minutes, wake her to feed more.

Again, as baby gets older, he will become more efficient at feeding, and it will take less time.

Some important things to remember:All baby-mama pairs are different, so what works for someone else may not work for you. Also, normal newborns can be irregular eaters. The frequency they will want to eat and the length of their feedings can sometimes vary considerably from day to day. All the times given here are estimates


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