Breastfeeding can be very mysterious for people who haven't been regularly exposed to it over the course of their life. For new breastfeeding mothers, navigating what's normal and learning the nuances of mothering through breastfeeding can feel like uncharted water. To muddy that water even further, there's tons of conflicting advice. Grandma says feed your baby on a strict schedule. Aunt Lucy says theres no way your baby is getting enough milk. Aunt Sally says your baby gets way too often and is going to be obese. And all the books and mommy forums say something totally different. One thing that can be hard to learn quickly is when exactly to feed your baby. In this article lets explore how often your baby should eat, how long, and how to know it's time to feed your baby.
How often should my breastfed newborn eat? I always recommend feeding infants on demand, with few exceptions for complex cases. You can learn more about the supply & demand mechanisms of breastfeeding to understand this recommendation deeper. But essentially, feeding your baby on a fixed, rigid schedule can have the potential for creating milk supply issues. Your newborn will likely nurse an average of 10-12 times a day in the first few weeks. For some who like to "snack" (ie have smaller meals) feedings may be more frequent. During growth spurts and illness, feedings may also be more frequent. Well if I'm not timing feeds, how do I know my baby is ready to eat?
The million dollar question! Luckily, babies are born with the ability to communicate... not the same way you and I do, but they have their own little system of signals that you will learn and begin to understand. Early Feeding Cues: waking from sleep, licking lips, sticking out tongue
"I'm hungry please" cues: rooting, gnawing on their hands, squirming into feeding positions, whimpering
FEED ME NOW! cues: Screaming, kicking, difficult to settle Seems easy enough... but the truth is, when we're tired it can be really easy to over look early feeding cues. Then baby ends up HANGRY and then struggles to latch... and then things get overwhelming. When this happens, getting baby back to a calm state before latching is the key to a successful feed. Practicing identifying early feeding cues can help to prevent a fussy, angry baby.
(Tip: learning your baby's language is part of why rooming in at the hospital is SO important!)
Okay... so now we know to feed baby 700,000 times a day whenever she licks her lips... but how long should I let my baby nurse on each side? Again, barring extreme situations, follow your baby's lead! Your baby may feed 15 minutes on the first breast, then fall asleep after 5 minutes of feeding on the second breast... that could be totally normal for your baby! And the kicker? As your baby grows, this can all change... This is why following your baby's lead is so important, and learning that there is a wide range of "normal" is essential. If at any point your intuition is telling you that your baby is not feeding often enough OR is feeding too frequently, it never hurts to schedule a home visit with an IBCLC who can evaluate your baby's feeding habits and help you make any necessary adjustments moving forward.
Disclaimer: Please remember that all information on this blog is purely informational and is not a substitute for individual support. Little Bear Services, LLC is not providing medical advice and all information on this website should be used as tools for communicating with your healthcare provider and IBCLC to determine the best plans for you and your baby. If you would like to schedule individual support you may do so here.
Jaimie Zaki, owner of Little Bear Services, LLC is a Birth Photographer, Labor Doula, & IBCLC serving families in South Jersey and Central New Jersey. Mother of three, military wife, and lover of coffee, Jaimie enthusiastically supports hospital and home births in Burlington County, Camden County, Mercer County, Atlantic County, Ocean County in New Jersey. If you reside outside of this service area, there are online courses and virtual support packages available! Jaimie is excited to serve your family! Learn more about Jaimie and the services she offers now!
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