How Long to Breastfeed at Each Feed
Women commonly wonder how long to breastfeed at each feed.
Jennifer’s baby feeds for less than 10 minutes at a time. Can her baby can get enough milk in that short a time?
Rachelle’s baby takes over an hour to feed. She wonders why it takes her baby so long.
How long to breastfeed
No two babies are the same. Just like adults, babies have their own feeding preferences. Some babies like to linger over their meal, while others are eager to feed and finish quickly.
Even for the same baby, feeds will vary in length. Sometimes they will want a ‘full meal’, while other times they just need a little drink. Following your baby’s cues and letting him decide the length of a feed leads to a happier baby.
Watch your baby not the clock
Rather than focusing on the TIME baby takes to feed, watch what your baby is doing at the breast. Is your baby actively nursing? Are you hearing swallows? Some newborn need a little reminder to stay actively nursing; try undressing your baby or tickling the feet.
It is unusual for every feeding to take longer than an hour. If this is the case, try breast compressions to help baby take in more milk. ‘Switch nursing’ (switching back and forth between breasts two or three times during a feed) may also be helpful. If long feeds persist, you may want to consult a breastfeeding specialist, such as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Ask to have your milk supply and baby’s latch assessed.
How to know when baby has had enough milk
Try burping after a feed. If your baby awakens and begins to make sucking motions or searches with his mouth, return him to the breast. We know babies have had enough milk when they are relaxed or “milk drunk” after a feed.
There are other ways to know baby is getting enough milk. You can read about them in this post.
The best feeding pattern is the one that is right for YOUR baby. Watching your newborn is the very best way to learn how long to breastfeed.
See more answers to your breastfeeding questions here.
Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.