Learning to Breastfeed

Learn important steps to ensuring your baby has a proper latch and is receiving enough milk for nourishment.

How Often?

How often should I breastfeed?

Breastfeed whenever your baby shows signs of hunger or thirst.  These signs include:

  • Squirming
  • Sucking on hands and fingers
  • Smacking lips
  • Coughing
  • Yawning

Some babies breastfeed every 1-3 hours a day and night; others breastfeed every hour for three to five feedings then sleep for 3-4 hours in between.  Every baby is different.
Your baby needs to breastfeed at least 8 times in each 24 hours.  Many babies breastfeed 10-12 times a day.

Sometimes a sleepy baby will not ask to eat often enough, and you will need to wake him to breastfeed.  During the first 4-6 weeks, if your baby does not wake to eat at least eight times in each 24 hours, watch for early signs on hunger or light sleep.  Offer the breast at these times.  The more milk your baby takes, the more milk you will make.

Hints for waking a sleepy baby

  • Place him in your lap in a sitting position and talk to him.
  • Massage his feet and back.
  • Remove his diaper.
  • Wipe his bottom with a cool washcloth.

How Long?

How long does a feeding last?

Your baby will let you know when he is done!

Some babies breastfeed 10-15 minutes on each breast, some breastfeed 15-30 minutes on each breast, and others breastfeed 15-30 minutes on one breast only.

When your baby stops feeding, burp him and offer the second breast.  If he breastfeeds poorly on the first breast, put him back on the first breast before you offer the second breast, so that you can be sure your baby gets the fat and calories he needs to grow.  Don’t worry if he breastfeeds on only one breast.  Each breast can provide a full meal!

Is My Baby Getting Enough?

How can I tell if my baby is getting enough to eat?

Many mothers worry about whether their baby is getting enough to eat.  Your baby’s stomach is the size of his fist, making enough milk to fill his stomach is easy!  Just remember, nothing comes out of the bottom unless something goes in the top!  You can be sure your baby is getting enough to eat if your baby is:

  • Active and alert.
  • Happy and satisfied after breastfeeding.
  • Breastfeeding at least eight times in each 24 hours.
  • Sucking and swallowing while breastfeeding.
  • Losing less than 7 percent of his birth weight.
  • Gaining 4-8 ounces each week after the first week.
  • Having four or more poops and six or more wet diapers a day by day 5.
  • Having yellow poop by day 5.
  • Having clear or pale urine.

If you see all these signs, you can be sure your baby is getting enough to eat.
If you are unsure, keep breastfeeding, and call your baby’s health care provider or call your WIC clinic.

Content republished with permission from “BREASTFEEDING Keep It Simple” by Amy Spangler, MN, RN, IBCLC