Ask the Lactation Expert: What's a Normal Breastfeeding Routine?

Confused about how long and how often to breastfeed your baby? Wondering whether you should put her on a schedule, wait for her to cry, or wake her up? If you're new to breastfeeding, you probably have questions. Lactation expert Kathy Kuhn has the answers.

How often should I breastfeed my baby?

Most babies will breastfeed 8 to 12 times in 24 hours, from their second or third day of life until they are three to six months old. Feedings are not usually spaced evenly around the clock.
Most babies will vary the time between feedings and the length of time each feeding takes. The average amount of time a breastfeeding session takes can vary from about 10 minutes to about 45 minutes.

Should I wake my baby for feedings?

For the first few weeks of life, I usually recommend that Mom wake the baby to breastfeed at least every two to three hours, measured from the start of one feeding to the start of the next, during the day and evening hours. It's okay to let the baby take one longer stretch of sleep at night if she is able to do that.

What if my baby wakes before it's time to feed her?

You should not make your baby wait until two to three hours has passed if she is crying or actively sucking on her hands, or otherwise showing interest in breastfeeding. If your baby wants to breastfeed sooner than two hours, it's always appropriate to breastfeed at that time, even if the last feeding just ended a short time ago. You don't need to worry that the breast is "empty"; since your breasts make milk continuously, there's always more milk available for your baby.

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