When babies are new, they are hungry. Fortunately, they’re able to let you know, with a number of different signs, just how hungry they are. But until you and your baby get into a rhythm for feedings, get comfortable knowing those signs of hunger, and have a better sense of what to expect, it’s important to understand with some more specificity just how often Baby will likely be feeding.
Your little one is tiny, as is their tummy. Babies digest breast milk easily, so after an infant feeds, they’ll be hungry again pretty soon.
For about the first month of their life, newborns should breastfeed about 8-12 times every 24 hours, but sometimes more frequently. Newborns shouldn’t go too long between feedings: 3 hours during the day and 4 hours at night (even if they’re sleeping for a long time).
These feedings should be “on cue” and responsive, meaning that you should feed your child whenever they appear hungry, and respond to their needs with warmth and attention. Again, Baby will thankfully show you a lot of clear signs that they’re hungry to help you know when to feed them!
And all these frequent nursings help stimulate milk production, so your little one will have all they need to eat.
Later on in infancy
As Baby grows, they may go longer between feedings. At this point, not only has your baby’s tummy grown larger (and so they can sometimes drink more milk at each feeding), your body may have also adjusted to producing larger amounts of milk. It’s important to remember that every nursing duo is different, so feeding on cue is always going to help you give your baby and your body what they need!
Once your baby is older, about 6-8 weeks of age, they may nurse a little less frequently. At this point you might also have a sense of your baby’s feeding personality — maybe they’re often sleepy and mellow or eager and active. Their feedings could even feel like they’re falling into somewhat of a pattern or a schedule.
That being said, Baby’s feedings might fluctuate a bit over the course of the day. You might notice some feedings are long, while others are short. Or there might be shifts when your child goes through a growth spurt or has a strenuous day. Sometimes a baby will want to feed frequently within a short period of time — as often as every hour. This is called cluster feeding. Your little one may also sleep for longer between feedings, from 4-5 hours. All of this is normal.
6-12 months old and onward
At six months old many babies are ready to start sampling solid food at one meal a day. Still, you should continue to prioritize breastmilk. So if your little one isn’t showing much interest in continuing to nurse or take a bottle, try nursing or bottle feeding when your kiddo is hungry, and then follow up with solids.
But how can you be sure you’re feeding your child the right amount?
If your baby is showing signs of fullness, is gaining weight, and having regular pees and poops, you can rest assured that they’re eating enough. All babies are different, but over time you’ll become more confident in knowing when your baby is satisfied and happy. If you have any questions about whether or not your child is getting enough breast milk, you can ask their healthcare provider for guidance. You can also reach out to a board certified lactation consultant to answer your breastfeeding questions and concerns. They can help if you’re finding nursing challenging, if you’re wondering what sort of breast discomfort is normal, or if you want reassurance that things are going well. Fortunately, there’s a lot of help available to you along the way as you become more comfortable nursing your little one.
- Amy Brown. “Importance of Responsive Feeding.” Kelly Mom. KellyMom.com, January 13 2018. Retrieved July 14 2020. https://kellymom.com/ages/newborn/bf-basics/importance-responsive-feeding
- Kelly Bonyata. “Breastfeeding your newborn — what to expect in the early weeks.” Kelly Mom. KellyMom.com, January 13 2018. Retrieved July 14 2020. https://kellymom.com/hot-topics/newborn-nursing/.
- Kristen Littleton and Jamila H. Richardson. “Breastfeeding FAQs: How Much and How Often.” Kids Health from Nemours. The Nemours Foundation, November 2019. Retrieved July 14 2020. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/breastfeed-often.html.
- “Frequency of Feedings.” La Leche League International. La Leche League International. Retrieved July 13 2020. https://www.llli.org/breastfeeding-info/frequency-feeding-frequently-asked-questions-faqs/.
- “How Much and How Often to Breastfeed.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, December 3 2018. Retrieved July 13 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/breastfeeding/how-much-and-how-often.html
- “How Often To Breastfeed.” healthychildren.org. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Retrieved July 14 2020. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/How-Often-to-Breastfeed.aspx.
- “Is Your Baby Hungry or Full? Responsive Feeding Explained.” healthychildren.org. American Academy of Pediatrics, September 1 2017. Retrieved July 13 2020. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Is-Your-Baby-Hungry-or-Full-Responsive-Feeding-Explained.aspx.