New mothers have no idea about how long a baby should be breastfed. It is so easy to overfeed or underfeed your baby without having a clear breastfeeding schedule on hand. To make this even harder, babies grow really fast and so will their nutrition requirement.
You might have to scale up the amount of milk that your baby needs to consume and your frequency of feeding every week. This might vary based on their weight, age (in weeks), & gender. Don’t shy away from getting proper medical guidance to clear out any doubts you have.
There are certain basic principles that will help you understand how often and how much should you be feeding your baby during the first few days, weeks, and months from childbirth. Let’s have a comprehensive discussion about the same in this post.
The First Few Days
It is understandable that no mother would want her baby to starve but you must realize that your newborn’s stomach is tiny. The amount of breastmilk that your baby needs to feel full with every feeding session is going to be really low in the first few days.
However, you’ll have to feed your baby often to tally this up (as often as once every 2 hours). This frequent feeding is not just going to help your baby practice sucking but also helps the mother by increasing her breast milk supply.
Unless you have a serious health condition, avoid feeding your baby with infant breastmilk formula. Never feed your baby anything artificial without consulting a pediatrician.
The First Few Weeks
The belly of your baby is going to grow rapidly within the first few weeks which obviously increases the amount of breastmilk that it needs to feel full. You won’t be seeing a lot of differences in the breastfeeding frequency which will pretty much remain at about once every 2 to 4 hours.
However, you can see a huge increase in the amount of milk your baby drinks every session. Some babies might have a longer sleep interval which typically lasts about 4 to 5 hours.
Babies usually don’t drink the same amount of milk every session so please don’t worry if your baby starts feeling full real quick. In the first few weeks, you will probably be feeding your baby about 8 to 10 times a day.
The First Year From Childbirth
This is exactly where you should start “breastfeeding on demand” because your baby would have started to consume solid foods by now. You must pay keen attention to your baby’s cues and feed it as soon as you find signs of hunger.
It is possible for your baby to show lesser interest in consuming breast milk. If this happens to be the case, make sure you breastfeed your baby before offering any solid food. Realize that even after your baby starts consuming solid foods, your breastmilk is going to remain its primary source of nutrition for a while.
The Second Year Of Breastfeeding
The second-year (precisely from 12 to 24 months from childbirth) is where it gets easy for both the mother and the child. The major portion of your child’s diet should now consist of solid foods of some form.
However, you may need to feed your baby at least once every day. The time of feeding might either be in the morning or in the evening. Also do not forget to look for your baby’s hunger cues.
Is There A “Normal” Feeding Pattern?
In some cases, newborns might wake up and feed every 2 or 3 hours like clockwork but this is again a very small subset of babies. There’s absolutely no reason for you to worry if you find your baby following a completely different schedule.
Your baby might want to feed several times within a short amount of time and then sleep for a prolonged period without waking up. There’s a technical name to define this pattern called “Cluster or Bunch Feeding”.
Some babies are so sleepy to an extent that you have to physically wake them up every time you feed them. As long as your baby consumes a healthy amount of breastmilk every day, all the patterns mentioned above are normal.
The Only Breastfeeding Schedule You Should Know About
There are certain breastfeeding schedules available online which insist that you must be feeding your baby once every 3 hours. While this may be true in some cases, not every baby will have the urge to consume breast milk within that time frame.
It is not a compulsion but it also won’t hurt to keep frequent tabs on your baby’s hunger index. Also, pay attention to the feeding duration. Make sure you breastfeed your baby for at least 10 to 15 minutes each session.
Signs That Your Baby Is Hungry
Any time your baby’s awake, alert, and active is a good time to breastfeed. However, there are certain signs that certainly means your baby is hungry. Your baby might be making sounds and moving him from side to side.
You can also observe your baby sticking out its tongue or sucking one of its fingers. “The Hungry Cry” is also another definitive indicator that shows that your baby is hungry. At first, you’ll find it hard to notice these signs but as days go by, you will start getting familiar.
This post should have given you a clear idea about a newborn’s breastfeeding schedule. As a new mother, you should also know when to call your doctor and get a quick consultation.
Every time a mother suspects that her baby is not feeding properly, there’s a really good chance that the baby is not feeling comfortable enough. Your baby might be feeling too hot or too cold. You also may not be establishing a good latch.
It is high time that you try using a breastfeeding pillow. As a new mother, a breastfeeding pillow will not just help you support your baby properly, but it also makes it really easy for you to hold your baby for a really long period of time.
Here is the doctor recommended Butterfly Pillow that helps you avoid postpartum pain and offers ultimate comfort while breastfeeding.