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How often do breastfed babies eat?

woman breastfeeding her baby

Key points:
1. Breastfeeding varies for each baby and mom; no exact science.
2. Feed on demand in early weeks, recognize hunger cues like mouth movements.
3. Feeding duration varies (5-40 minutes), signs of satisfaction include detachment and calmness.
4. Baby’s age affects feeding frequency; newborns feed often due to small stomachs and easy digestion.

If your baby was just born and you’ve started breastfeeding them, you might have some doubts about this process.

Each baby and mom are different, so there’s not an exact science of how this should be done. However, here you’ll find some useful information to put your mind at ease. One of the most frequent questions among moms is how often they should breastfeed their babies. Some parents say their little ones want to eat all the time, while others have babies that sleep a lot and ask just for a little milk.

Before establishing a breastfeeding schedule for your baby, remember that, during the first weeks, you should feed them on demand. This means to breastfeed them whenever they are hungry. That’s why it’s important to recognize your baby’s hunger signals. For example, crying is already a desperate and too late queue. Some previous signals to crying include:

  • Moving the head from side to side
  • Opening the mouth
  • Taking the tongue out
  • Putting hands and feet in mouth
  • Pursing lips, as if the baby was sucking
  • Caressing your breasts
  • Murmuring
  • Showing the rooting reflex. This reflex can be seen when babies move their mouths towards whatever touches their cheeks.

How long does it take to breastfeed?

This answer also depends on each case and we can’t establish an exact number of minutes. A feed might last between 5 and 40 minutes approximately. However, this varies since each baby is different. When your little one has already ingested enough milk, they’ll let you know by doing the following:
• Detaching from your breast.
• They’ll seem sleepy or calm and look around.

Knowing the signals of when your baby is hungry or satisfied will make the breastfeeding process a lot easier. If you have any other concerns about your little one’s growth or milk ingestion, talk to your pediatrician on the next visit.

Besides the signals mentioned above, you can also consider the frequency of breastfeeding according to your baby’s age. Usually, newborns feed every hour and a half or three hours. This might seem like a lot, but there’s an explanation for that. Your baby’s stomach is very small, and they can’t eat a lot. Also, breast milk is easy to digest so it’s normal for your little one to be hungry so often.

If you have a newborn, it’s important that you don’t let them go without eating for more than 4 hours (nights included). During this stage, it’s expected for a baby to eat 8 to 12 times a day. Once they are one or two months old, the feeds will decrease to 7-9 daily feeds. Their stomach will start to grow, which will allow them to eat more and be satisfied for longer.

When you’re breastfeeding your baby, what matters is not the exact amount of milk they are ingesting but if they have enough and are satisfied. Remember that each baby has different needs, so your child may be satisfied with more or less milk than others. These are some signals that will let you know if your little one is eating enough:

  • They seem happy or satisfied after each feed.
  • They wet 4 to 6 diapers per day.
  • They sleep well.
  • They are alert while awake.
  • They are gaining weight.

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