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How Often and How Long to Feed

August 12, 2013 by HealthyFamilies BC

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mom breastfeeding baby in hospital bed

 

 

If you're just starting out, you might be wondering how much breastfeeding is enough for your baby. 

Here are some guidelines that can help.


In the first three to four days after birth, your baby may lose some weight. This is normal, as long as your baby still has wet and soiled diapers. Learn the signs of a good feeding so you can be sure your baby gets enough.

Watch a video about Baby Feeding Cues and Behaviours.

Healthy babies will take what they need, as long as you respond to their feeding cues. Let your baby be your guide, keeping in mind that your newborn’s stomach is very small at  birth - about the size of a marble. Most babies will want to feed eight or more times in 24 hours. Here are some tips to help get you started:

  • In the early days, feed from both breasts to help establish your milk supply. Later, your baby may still feed from both breasts, or may be satisfied after feeding from one.
  • Feed on the first breast until the baby falls away. This usually tells you your baby's had enough. Don't rush, though - your baby may just be resting and not yet finished.
  • After burping by gently patting and rubbing your baby’s back, offer the other breast.
  • If your baby is still hungry he will latch on, suck, and swallow.
  • Begin the next feeding on the breast you didn’t use at the last feeding, or the one you finished using last.
  • There is no set amount of time for how long your baby should feed. In the early days it may seem as though it takes a very long time.
  • Some babies feed very often at first - as much as every one to two hours, from one feed to the next - and then go for longer periods between feedings. This cluster feeding is normal.
  • The frequency usually decreases once breastfeeding is well established. When babies go through a growth spurt they may want to nurse more often for a couple of days to increase the milk supply.
  • For the first 24 hours, your breasts will feel soft. After two to three days, they may feel soft or full. After about five days, your breasts will feel full at the start of a feeding and soft afterwards. After several weeks, it is normal to have soft breasts before and during feedings, yet still have lots of milk.
  • Ask for help if you're having difficulty or if feedings take longer than an hour. Call your public health office, midwife, or breastfeeding clinic, or dial 8-1-1.
  • After your milk supply is well established, feedings will be shorter.

Remember

Your baby needs to nurse often. Even though your newborn only drinks 10 to 100ml (1 tablespoon to ½ cup) per day in the first few days, nursing will help increase the milk supply as your baby requires it.

Baby's Age

Baby's Stomach Size
Day 1

Size of a shooter marble
(5-7 ml)

Day 3

Size of a ping pong ball
(22-27 ml)

Day 10

Size of a large chicken egg
(60-81 ml)

 


Resources & Links:
HealthLink BC: Breastfeeding
HealthLink BC: Growth and Development, Newborn

VIDEO: Admission to Postpartum - Keeping Your Baby Skin-to-Skin
VIDEO: Baby's Feeding Cues and Behaviours
VIDEO: Breastfeeding Positions
VIDEO: Cup Feeding and Other Feeding Methods
VIDEO: Hand Expressing Milk
VIDEO: Latching Your Baby

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Topic

  1. Activity & Lifestyles
  2. Aging Well
  3. Pregnancy & Parenting
    1. Pregnancy & Birth
    2. Babies (0-12 months)
    3. Toddlers (12-36 months)
    4. Preschool (3-5 years)
    5. Children (6-11 years)
    6. Teens (12-18 years)
  4. Food & Nutrition

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