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How Often and How Long

Your baby’s feeding patterns will change from feed to feed, day to day, week to week, and month to month.

growth chart

Newborn babies eat often because their tummies are small. They can only take in very small amounts of breastmilk at each feeding. Frequent feedings of at least 8 times in 24 hours are important because your baby digests breastmilk quickly. Your breastmilk has all the nutrients your baby needs in the first six months of life. Your baby’s body and developing brain needs the energy from your breastmilk to grow.

Breastfeed your baby for as long as your baby wants to be at the breast. The length of time your baby spends at the breast for each feeding will vary. As your baby gets older, they will breastfeed more quickly than a newborn baby.

What is important is that your baby has rhythmic sucking and swallowing at each feeding. When the sucking and swallowing slows down or your baby comes off the breast, you can burp your baby. Then offer the second breast. Offer both breasts at each feeding. Your baby may seem less interested in the second breast and may nurse for a shorter time on this side, if at all.

Some babies are not satisfied after the second breast and need to go back to the first again. At your next feeding time, begin by offering the breast that feels the fullest. At the end of a breastfeeding session your breasts should be softer and feel less full. As well, your baby should be more relaxed and sleepier.

Some breastfeeding parents like to use breast compressions at the end of a breastfeeding. When your baby’s sucking and swallowing slows, breast compressions can be used. Breast compression means that you apply pressure and gently squeeze your breast while your baby is sucking.

Breast compressions encourage your baby to keep sucking. This can help to increase and maintain breastmilk flow and to help keep your baby drinking breastmilk. This can be helpful to keep a sleepy baby drinking. Remember that your breast is never totally “empty”. More milk is always being made.

When babies breastfeed more frequently

Cluster feeding is when your baby has many feeds grouped together in a short period of time. This often happens in the evening hours and into the early hours of the night. Baby then takes a break from breastfeeding and sleeps for about 3 to 4 hours.

You may worry that your baby seems unsatisfied or that you are not producing enough breast milk, but cluster feeding is normal for young babies. It is important to feed your baby whenever they show signs of hunger.

When babies have a growth spurt, they will breastfeed more often. These growth spurts happen frequently in the first few months. During a growth spurt it is important to breastfeed your baby every time they show signs of being hungry.

This period of frequent breastfeeding will increase your milk supply. Once your breastmilk supply has increased to meet your baby’s new calorie needs, your baby will get more milk at each feed. Your baby will then go back to their usual breastfeeding pattern.

Some infants' sucking needs are met primarily during feedings. Other babies may need additional sucking at the breast soon after a feeding even though they are not really hungry. Breastfeeding can be useful for babies when they are lonely, frightened or in pain.

Breastfeeding before, during, and after a painful procedure is a good way to reduce baby’s pain. It is effective for when babies get their immunizations or when bloodwork is taken.

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