How Often to Feed

How often do you eat or drink each day?

We do not all eat or drink the same number of times each day. Some of us prefer many small meals or sips of water spread out through the day while others eat and drink a larger amount just a few times a day. Just like adults, every baby will have his own feeding pattern.

To help you better understand how often your baby will need to feed, use this graphic to record how often you ate or drank in the last 24 hours.

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How often should your baby feed?

  • The happiest babies are fed on demand.
  • A full tummy of milk can be digested in 90 minutes or less!
  • Try to feed at least every 3 hours in baby’s first 2 weeks.
  • Your baby will feed more often at night than in the day. This is normal!
  • Babies double their birth weight by the time they are 6 months old. Imagine how often you would need to eat in order to double your weight!


Your baby’s feeding pattern will change often in first 2 weeks. Here's what you can expect:


First hours after birth

  • At birth, babies have a quiet alert stage; they are awake and show interest in feeding.
  • After this period of alertness, babies go into a drowsy period. For the next several hours, your baby will need reminders to feed.

24 hours after birth

  • When your baby is about 24 hours old, everything changes.
  • Your formerly sleepy baby will be more awake, wanting to feed all the time.
  • This frequent feeding is normal!
  • You wonder if you have enough milk.
  • Although your breasts are soft, they have colostrum, the perfect food for your baby.
  • This stage is exhausting. You will need to make a plan to manage.

Three days after birth

  • Your breasts will begin to feel heavier.
  • Your milk will begin changing from the golden colostrum to a whiter, more watery milk.
  • You will begin to hear louder, more frequent swallows.
  • Your baby will continue to feed often. 8, 10, 14, 16 or more times a day is normal.

Four or five days after birth

  • Your breasts may feel overly full and tender. This is normal.
  • Your breasts will adjust to your baby’s needs over the next few days.
  • If the areola (the brown area around your nipple) is overly firm, use the hand expression to soften. (We explain this skill in the previous lesson)

Ten days to 2 weeks after birth

  • Your breasts will have adjusted to your baby’s needs.
  • You may worry you have lost your milk as your breasts will feel much softer.
  • Milk is stored in the breast between feeds but milk is also made as your baby nurses.

Bonus Content

The first week with your newborn can be exhausting and confusing. We've created this checklist to help you keep track of your baby's progress. Feel free to print it out for use during your baby's first week.

ChecklistHowtoKnowBreastfeedingisGoingWell.pdf

References

  1. Bonyata, K., “Average Weight Gain for Breastfed Babies.” KellyMom.com. 11 Apr. 2016. https://kellymom.com/bf/normal/weight-gain/ 
  2. Bonyata, K., “Breastfeeding your newborn — what to expect in the early weeks.” KellyMom.com. 01 Mar. 2016. https://kellymom.com/hot-topics/newborn-nursing/ 
  3. Bonyata, K., “When will my milk come in?” KellyMom.com. 15 Mar. 2016. https://kellymom.com/ages/newborn/when-will-my-milk-come-in/ 
  4. Daley, S.E., & Hartmann, P.E. “Infant demand and milk supply. Part 1: Infant demand and milk production in lactating women”. Journal of Human Lactation, 11, 21 – 26. 1995. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7718102 
  5. Holmes, A. et al. “ABM Clinical Protocol #5: Peripartum Breastfeeding Management for the Healthy Mother and Infant at Term, Revision 2013.” Breastfeeding Medicine 8.6 (2013): 469-73. Bfmed.org.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3868283/ 
  6. Kent, JC., et al. “Volume and frequency of breastfeedings and fat content of breast milk throughout the day”. 2016 Pediatrics, 117(3), e387‐e395.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16510619 
  7. La Leche League Canada “Establishing Your Milk Supply.” lllc.ca. 2014. https://supportingbreastfeeding.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/establishing-your-milk-supply/ 
  8. La Leche League Canada “Weight Gain and Knowing Baby Is Getting Enough Milk.” lllc.ca. https://www.lllc.ca/category/faq-categories/weight-gain-and-knowing-baby-getting-enough-milk 
  9. Leclerc, C. and Stockham, J., "Do Breasts Need Time to Fill?" cindyandjana.com. https://cindyandjana.com/do-breasts-need-time-to-fill-between-feeds/ 
  10. Newman, J., MD, FRCPC, and Kernerman, E., IBCLC. “Breastfeeding – Starting Out Right”, 2017. https://ibconline.ca/information-sheets/breastfeeding-starting-out-right/