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Breast-Feeding - Feeding Patterns

Knowing your baby's feeding habits and diaper-change patterns is important, especially during the first few months of breast-feeding. There are usually patterns to how often he or she feeds and how often you will need to change his or her diaper. You may also notice changes in how long each feeding lasts and begin to recognize signs that your baby is getting enough milk. As your baby gets older, you may add supplements and other foods and eventually you will reach the time for weaning.

How often and how long to feed

The general recommendation is to feed your baby on demand. This means that you breast-feed whenever you notice signs that your baby is hungry, such as when he or she is eagerly sucking on fingers or rooting. This strategy also helps you produce more milk and ensures that the baby is well nourished.

During the first 2 weeks, on-demand feedings usually occur every 1 to 3 hours (about 8 to 12 feedings in a 24-hour period). You may have to wake a sleepy baby to feed him or her in the first few days after birth. These early feedings often are short. Sometimes a newborn breast-feeds for only a few minutes on each breast or only on one breast. These feedings are important to increase your milk supply over the first few days. Try to let your baby breast-feed at least 15 minutes on a breast. This allows your baby to get the foremilk, which has water and needed nutrients, and hindmilk, which has more fat and calories to satisfy your baby's appetite. Over time, feeding sessions will become longer.

At around 3 months of age, feedings may become less frequent. Your baby is able to drink more milk at one time, and your milk supply naturally increases as your baby's needs increase.

Needs typically increase during growth spurts. When your baby has a growth spurt, he or she may seem to be hungry more often. By feeding your baby on demand, you increase your milk supply. After about 2 to 4 days, you will have increased your milk supply at each feeding to satisfy your baby for a longer period. After the growth spurt, the number of feedings will then gradually decrease.

Signs that your baby is getting enough milk

It is common to wonder if your baby is getting enough milk. Most babies lose weight in the first several days after birth but regain it within a week or two. Weight gain is more rapid after mature milk is produced, about 10 to 15 days after you deliver your baby. After breast-feeding is established, your baby will also get more hindmilk, which provides additional fat and calories. Look for signs that your baby is getting enough milk, such as having regular dirty and wet diapers. If you still have concerns, see When to Call a Doctor.

If you aren't sure if your baby is getting enough milk, talk to your doctor. He or she can help you to find the problem, if one exists. Don't supplement your breast-fed baby's diet with formula unless your doctor recommends it. Extra feedings with formula can interfere with your breast milk production and may lead to early weaning.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 01, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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