Once your little one has entered the world, their need for breastfeeding will seem endless. You might feel like you’ve literally become a milk bar. Breastfed babies are encouraged to nurse on-demand, which means feeding whenever they show hunger cues rather than adhering to a strict schedule. Hunger cues can include lip smacking, rooting, hand-to-mouth movements, or increased alertness.
In the first month, they will be demanding milk over 8-12 times a day – sometimes more! Basically, you’ll be feeding your little cutie around the clock. This leaves you little time between each feed to change them, do any household chores, or eat something yourself sometimes. If you’re wondering what is to be expected and how long breastfeeding will go on for, we have a few answers for you.
How often should a newborn feed?
As you’ve probably realised by now, at first it will be around 8-12 times a day. For most babies, this frequency will last up to a month. They’re hungry often because the breastmilk is very easy to digest and doesn’t take too much for them to feel full. You’ll hear the cries for milk kick in around 1-3 hours.
In the first few days after birth, newborns often have frequent feedings and it’s not uncommon for babies to nurse even more frequently, sometimes every 1 to 2 hours, particularly during cluster feeding periods. Cluster feeding is when a baby feeds multiple times in a shorter span, typically in the evenings. This behaviour is normal (although tiring for the mum) and helps establish the milk supply and satisfy the baby’s hunger needs during periods of rapid growth and development.
Your newborn won’t go any more than 4 hours without feeding, even if it’s in the middle of the night! Once they reach the one month mark, the feedings will typically go down to 7-9 times a day.
By the age of 3 to 6 months, babies typically continue to breastfeed every 3 to 4 hours during the day, although this can vary. Some infants may have shorter intervals between feeds, while others may go longer stretches between sessions. It is essential to remember that babies have their unique feeding patterns, and individual needs can differ.
As babies become more efficient at breastfeeding and start solids around 6 months of age, their feeding schedule will typically evolve again. They may start to nurse less frequently, with longer intervals between feeds – all of which is normal as they obtain additional nutrients from solid foods.
How long should a newborn feed for?
On average, your little one may take around 20-30 minutes to nurse (and often much longer in those early days and weeks). The feeds can vary in length depending on your milk flow, milk supply, your baby’s latch, and their feeding skills. As they gain more practice and grow, the time may go down to approximately 7-10 minutes per side.
Remember that the duration of breastfeeding sessions does not necessarily reflect the adequacy of your milk supply or your baby’s nutritional intake. Babies’ sucking patterns can vary, and some may nurse more efficiently, extracting milk quickly. Others may have a slower and more relaxed feeding style.
Additionally, it’s important to consider that breastfeeding is not only about transferring milk but also provides comfort, bonding, and emotional connection between the mother and baby. Some babies may nurse for longer periods simply for comfort, even if they are not actively feeding.
How long should I breastfeed?
You’ve likely already heard that it’s recommended to exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first 6 months, if you are able to. However, if it’s working well for you and your baby is growing happy and healthy, you can continue for as long as you like! There are numerous benefits from breastfeeding so definitely keep it up if you can.
Every baby is different so they might require different lengths of breastfeeding. If they’re feeding less than 7 times a day or you’re worried at all, contact your doctor or midwife. Otherwise, expect to be a constant milk machine for the first 6 months at least.
Breastfeeding can be hard, so hang in there if you can and remember it’s a beautiful way to bond with your baby and they will be getting the best possible nutrients.