The golden rule of successful breastfeeding is to feed the baby on demand. While a typical feeding schedule for formula-fed babies is every 2-4 hours, breastfed babies nurse more frequently, usually every two hours. This is why breastfeeding schedule is usually set by a baby, and not by his mom.
How often should I breastfeed?
The stomach of a newborn is a size of a cherry and can hold about 5-7 ml of milk (1-1.4 tablespoons). By one week, baby’s stomach becomes a size of an apricot and holds 45-60 ml (1.5-2 oz) of milk. By one month, the baby’s stomach grows up to a size of a large egg and can hold 80-150 ml (2.5-5 oz) of milk. Breast milk contains an enzyme called lipase that breaks down the fats in the breast milk, making it very easy to digest – in about 60-90 minutes.
This is why newborn babies eat almost around the clock for the first few weeks – 8-12 times a day. To establish a good breastfeeding schedule with a newborn, moms need to become sure that their babies do not go more than 2 hours without feeding during the day, and 4 hours overnight. These frequent feedings also will help stimulate your milk production and establish a good milk supply in the first month.
If your baby has established a good feeding pattern, breastfeed her before she starts crying of hunger. Hunger cues such as making sucking motions, or putting a fist into mouth usually precede crying.
At around 1.5-2 months, your baby’s stomach will start holding bigger quantities of breastmilk. An average breastfed baby will start having longer stretches between feedings and reduce the number of feeding sessions to 7-9 times a day. Some babies will continue feeding every 90 minutes, whereas others might go 2 or 3 hours without feedings. It is important that you continue feeding on demand and allow your baby to adjust the breastfeeding schedule herself.
Many moms usually ask when they should start counting the length between feedings. You count the length between feedings from the time when your baby begins to nurse to when starts nursing again. The duration of a nursing session also depends on age. Newborns may nurse 20 minutes on each breast, while older babies can efficiently empty one breast in 5-10 minutes.
How can I tell, if my baby gets enough?
With breastfeeding, it is difficult to estimate how much milk the baby actually consumes in one feeding. New breastfeeding moms are often concerned whether their newborns are getting enough from their breasts. If your baby’s weight gain is within the normal range, he seems satisfied after feedings, has at least 6 wet diapers a day and regular bowel movements, and sleeps well, then you don’t need to worry – he is getting enough breast milk to meet his nutritional needs.
Many modern apps will help you to keep the track of your breastfeeding sessions, their duration, the number of baby’s wet diapers and poops, weight and height gains, the time and duration of your baby’s sleep and other important information. You can discuss the results with your baby’s pediatrician during regular checkups.
Why my baby has suddenly become hungrier than usual?
There may be days when your baby will seem hungrier than usual and feed out of regular breastfeeding schedule. Many mothers may take this as a sign of dropped milk supply. However, in fact, the baby may be going through a growth spurt. Growth spurts usually happen during the first week, around 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3, 4, 6 and 9 months. They may last 2-3 days or even longer. It is important that you continue breastfeeding on demand and avoid supplementing with expressed milk or formula. By nursing more often, your baby will increase your milk supply and adjust it to her needs.
What is your baby’s breastfeeding schedule? How do you handle the growth spurts?