Wondering how often should you breastfeed your baby? Find out
Your little one’s health is largely determined by what you feed him, since the time he or she is born. When it comes to a newborn baby, breastfeeding is the best way to go. Breast milk will satisfy all his or her nutritional needs for the first 6 months. Yet, many new mothers get confused about how often to breastfeed the baby and for how long. So, read on to clear all your doubts regarding breastfeeding.
How long should you breastfeed your baby?
Most experts agree that breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for an infant. In fact, mothers are encouraged to exclusively breastfeed the baby for the first 6 months. After 6 months, you can start introducing complementary foods into the baby’s diet. Many mothers try to introduce complementary foods to the baby apart from breast milk or stop breastfeeding completely by the first year, while others continue to breastfeed until the baby turns two. A minimum of 2 years is usually recommended by experts but you can continue to breastfeed for longer as well.
How many times should you feed your baby?
Wondering how often should a newborn breastfeed? It will depend on his or her age. Here’s a complete breakdown:
How often should you feed your baby in the first 24 hours?
For all normal newborn babies, whether they are born through C-section or normal delivery, you need to initiate skin-to-skin contact within 5 minutes of the baby’s birth. This will make sure that the baby starts breastfeeding within one hour of birth. The mother needs to make direct eye connection with the baby, and offer caresses while feeding. This will help the baby become more comfortable with breastfeeding over time. Nursing the baby 8 or more times during the first 24 hours will help him urinate 3 times on an average and pass stool around 3-4 times. This is well within the normal range.
Feeding the baby frequently in the first 24 hours is important because babies receive colostrum then. This is a thick liquid with a yellowish tinge, also called “first milk”. On the first day, your baby will get to drink this fluid with every feeding session. Colostrum has important antibodies that will protect your baby’s immune system and give his digestive system a head-start.
How often should you feed your baby in the first few days?
From the second day onwards, till the end of the first week, you should nurse around 8-12 times (or more if required) in 24 hours. You should also nurse during both day and night. This will help promote milk production, protect your baby against jaundice, and help him regain the weight that has been lost post-birth. Aim to nurse every 1-2 hours during the day and every 3 hours during the night. This will also help you to increase the milk production by nearly 10-20 times.
Scheduled feeding vs. demand feeding
Should you follow a set schedule for newborn feeding? Well, experts advise against putting your baby on a defined schedule for breastfeeding. Scheduled feeding can make the baby more accustomed to foods other than breast milk as scheduled feeding might result in lower production of breast milk. It’s a much better practice to figure out when your baby is hungry and feed him or her accordingly.
You need to watch for hunger cues too. Waiting till the baby is crying is not a good idea as a crying baby may not be able to latch onto the breast easily. Here are some cues you should watch out for:
- Movements and sounds that indicate sucking
- Movements between hand and mouth
- Quick movements of the eyes
- Gentle sighing or cooing sounds
- General restlessness
How often should you feed your baby in the first few weeks?
After the first week, let your baby’s hunger be your guide. From the first week onwards, up to 6 weeks, your body will begin to produce the full amount of milk. If you nurse your baby every time they are hungry, your body will increase production to meet your baby’s need. Watch out for times when your baby wants to nurse more often — these are “growth spurts” and are perfectly normal.
How often should you feed your baby in the first 6 months?
Since your baby is being exclusively breastfed in the first 6 months, around 8 sessions a day is considered to be average. This can vary between 4 and 13 sessions, depending on the storage capacity of the mother. Once again, let your baby’s hunger cues guide you at this stage. After all, your baby knows best when they need nutrition.
The underlying principle behind breastfeeding is simple. You need to breastfeed frequently in the first 24 hours as well as during the first week. This will signal your body to produce breast milk according to your baby’s needs. Also, make sure that you don’t put your baby on a feeding schedule. Let his or her hunger guide you.