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Breast Feeding

How often?

09/05/2000

Question:

i feed my baby almost 1.5 hour. is it normal?

Answer:

It depends. It depends on the age of your baby and whether the baby was full term. It depends on whether "almost 1.5 hours" means around the clock (for about 16 feedings in 24 hours) or whether it means your baby goes longer at certain times of the day or night but then makes up for it at others. It depends on how long typical feedings last and whether your baby usually seems satisfied after feeding. It depends on whether your baby chooses when to end feeding on each breast or if you are the one who stops the feeding to switch sides. It depends on whether your baby is wetting and stooling often enough and what your baby`s weight gain pattern has been. It depends on whether this feeding routine has been part of your baby`s pattern since birth or if it is more recent, such as during a typical "growth spurt" period.

Assuming full (exclusive) breastfeeding, most babies breastfeed at least 8 and up to about 12 feedings in 24 hours for the first several months. Some regularly feed every 2 to 3 hours, others cluster feedings--eating more frequently than every 2 hours at certain times of the day and lengthening the time between feedings to beyond 3 hours at another time(s). More frequent feedings are more typical in younger babies, but some babies continue to eat very frequently after 3-4 months. However, feedings tend to be briefer as they grow and become more efficient feeders. During 2 to 4 day "growth spurt" periods, which commonly occur between 2-3 weeks, between 4 to 6 weeks, and again between 12 to 14 weeks, a baby may seem to want to breastfeed around the clock for a few days. It`s best to follow the baby`s lead because the baby may be telling your breasts to make more milk to keep pace with growth needs. These spurts are soon over.

Typical feedings last about 10 to 30 minutes at the first breast, and somewhat less than this when the baby is interested in also feeding at the second breast. That should include at least 7 to 10 minutes of active sucking-some babies like "fast food" 10-minute breastfeedings and others seem to savor their meals, as if pausing for different courses. It is best to let your baby set the pace. Milk later in each feeding is higher in calories, so don`t switch breasts until the baby self-detaches at the first breast to make sure she/he is getting this "hindmilk." However, if baby active sucking does not add up to at least 10 minutes or typical feedings often last more than 35 minutes on the first breast, it may mean your baby is not breastfeeding as effectively as he/she might. Also, a baby should usually seem satisfied with the feeding for at least 30 minutes, although there may be times of the day when this does not occur. For example, it isn`t unusual for babies to cluster feeds very closely during the evening.

Your baby should always soak at least 6 diapers with urine in 24 hours. You should be changing 3 or more dirty diapers if your baby is less than 4 to 6 weeks; however, some babies stool less often--even going more than 2 weeks in some instances--as they grow. From the end of the first week after birth through the first 3 to 3.5 months, your baby should gain at least 0.5 ounces (15 g) a day, or at least 4 ounces (114 g) a week, or at least a pound (454 k) a month (starting with lowest weight after birth--not birth weight). After 3 months rate of weight gain tends to slow somewhat for many healthy, fully-breastfed babies.

If this describes your baby, his/her pattern probably is "normal." It also may be that some of the time your baby is going to breast, she/he might also be happy with a different activity that involves close contact with you or your partner--a walk or dance while carried close to either of you in a carrier or sling for instance. If you have any question about the feeding pattern or you`re concerned that your baby isn`t breastfeeding as effectively as he/she should, you may want to contact a lactation consultant (IBCLC) or mother support group leader, such as La Leche League, in your area. For a referral to someone in your area, contact:

International Lactation Consultant Association, 4101 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 201, Raleigh, NC 27607; phone: 919/787-5181; fax: 919/787-4916; email: ilca@erols.com; web site: www.ilca.org/

La Leche League International, 1400 N. Meacham Rd., PO Box 4079, Schaumburg, IL 60168-4079; phone: 847/519-7730 or 800-LALECHE; fax: 847/519-0035; email lllhq@llli.org; web site: http://www.lalecheleague.org/

References:

Neifert MR (1999). Clinical aspects of lactation: Breastfeeding success. Clinics in Perinatology, 26(2), 281-306.

Riordan J & Auerbach KG (1999). Breastfeeding and human lactation (2nd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

Related Resources:

International Lactation Consultant Association
La Leche League International

For more information:

Go to the Breast Feeding health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Karen Kerkhoff Gromada, MSN, RN, IBCLC
Adjunct Clinical Instructor
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati