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Health Information For Parents
Breastfeeding is a natural thing to do, but it still comes with its fair share of questions. Here’s what you need to know about how often and how long to breastfeed your baby.
Newborn babies should breastfeed 8–12 times per day for about the first month. Breast milk is easily digested, so newborns are hungry often. Frequent feedings helps stimulate your milk production during the first few weeks.
By the time your baby is 1–2 months old, he or she probably will nurse 7–9 times a day.
In the first few weeks of life, breastfeeding should be “on demand” (when your baby is hungry), which is about every 1-1/2 to 3 hours. As newborns get older, they’ll nurse less often, and may have a more predictable schedule. Some might feed every 90 minutes, whereas others might go 2–3 hours between feedings.
Newborns should not go more than about 4 hours without feeding, even overnight.
Count the length of time between feedings from the time your baby begins to nurse (rather than at the end) to when your little one starts nursing again. In other words, when your doctor asks how often your baby is feeding, you can say “about every 2 hours” if your first feeding started at 6 a.m., the next feeding was around 8 a.m., then 10 a.m., and so on.
Especially at first, you might feel like you’re nursing around the clock, which is normal. Soon enough, your baby will go longer between feedings.
Newborns may nurse for up to 20 minutes or longer on one or both breasts. As babies get older and more skilled at breastfeeding, they may take about 5–10 minutes on each side.
How long it takes to breastfeed depends on you, your baby, and other things, such as whether:
Call your doctor if you’re worried that your baby’s feedings seem too short or too long.
Alternate breasts and try to give each one the same amount of nursing time throughout the day. This helps to keep up your milk supply in both breasts and prevents painful engorgement (when your breasts overfill with milk).
You may switch breasts in the middle of each feeding and then alternate which breast you offer first for each feeding. Can’t remember where your baby last nursed? It can help to attach a reminder — like a safety pin or small ribbon — to your bra strap so you’ll know which breast your baby last nursed on. Then, start with that breast at the next feeding. Or, keep a notebook handy or use a breastfeeding app to keep track of how your baby feeds.
Your baby may like switching breasts at each feeding or prefer to nurse just on one side. If so, then offer the other breast at the next feeding. Do whatever works best and is the most comfortable for you and your baby.
After your baby finishes on one side, try burping before switching breasts. Sometimes, the movement alone can be enough to cause a baby to burp.
Some infants need more burping, others less, and it can vary from feeding to feeding.
If your baby spits up a lot, try burping more often. While it’s normal for infants to “spit up” a small amount after eating or during burping, a baby should not vomit after feeding. If your baby throws up all or most of a feeding, there could be a problem that needs medical care. If you’re worried that your baby is spitting up too much, call your doctor.
When babies go through a period of rapid growth (called a growth spurt), they want to eat more than usual. These can happen at any time. But in the early months, growth spurts often happen when a baby is:
During these times and whenever your baby seems extra hungry, follow your little one’s hunger cues. You may need to breastfeed more often for a while.
That’s a personal choice. Experts recommend that babies be breastfed exclusively (without formula, water, juice, non–breast milk, or food) for the first 6 months. Then, breastfeeding can continue until 12 months (and beyond) if it’s working for you and your baby.
Breastfeeding has many benefits for mom and baby both. Studies show that breastfeeding can lessen a baby’s chances of diarrhea, ear infections, and bacterial meningitis, or make symptoms less severe. Breastfeeding also may protect children from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), diabetes, obesity, and asthma.
For moms, breastfeeding burns calories and helps shrink the uterus. In fact, breastfeeding moms might return to their pre–pregnancy shape and weight quicker. Breastfeeding also helps lower a woman’s risk of diseases like:
It also might help protect moms from uterine cancer and ovarian cancer.
Here are answers to common questions about getting started with breastfeeding.
Here are answers to some common questions about your milk supply – from having too much to having too little.
Here are answers to some common questions about getting a good latch, making sure your baby is drinking, taking your baby off the breast, and more.
If you’re a new mom, breastfeeding your baby can feel like a challenge. Check out this article for information on common nursing positions, proper latching-on techniques, and how to know if your baby is getting enough to eat.
Here are answers to some common questions about preventing and reducing breastfeeding discomfort, such as nipple and breast pain.
Learn which nutrients you need while pregnant or breastfeeding, and easy ways to add them to your diet.
Here are answers to some common questions about going out in public as a breastfeeding mom – from how to do it discreetly to taming sneaky leaks.
Here are answers to some common questions about pumping your breast milk – from buying a pump to making the process a little easier.
Here are answers to some questions about common breastfeeding concerns – from biting to spitting up.
Here are answers to some common questions about breastfed babies and sleep – from where they should snooze to when they’ll finally start sleeping through the night.
Here’s a quick guide to an important part of feeding a baby – burping.
Bonding, the intense attachment that develops between you and your baby, is completely natural. And it’s probably one of the most pleasurable aspects of infant care.
Making a decision to breastfeed or formula feed your baby is a personal one. There are some points to consider to help you decide which option is best for you and your baby.
Knowing how to pump and store breast milk is an important part of feeding your baby. Learn how in this step-by-step video.
Breast milk is the healthiest choice for your baby. Learn how to breastfeed your baby in this step-by-step video.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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