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Feeding Patterns

What’s normal anyway?

You had your baby, you’re home, you are nursing and things seem to be going well. Many new parents like you have taken a prenatal class to learn as much as you can about breastfeeding. Prior to your baby’s birth it is impossible to know exactly what feeding plan you will need to follow, so having some simple guidelines might help.

Newborns

  • Newborns under 30 days of life will nurse for 5 – 10 minutes on each side.
  • Newborns don’t feed on any particular identifiable pattern.
  • Newborns usually have 4 – 7 feedings every 24 hours in the first 2-3 days of life, but can nurse as many as 12 times every 24 hours in the first 3 days.
  • Newborns often feed with their eyes closed and appear to be sleeping, however they are able to transfer colostrum and transitional milk well.
  • Newborns (and older infants) nurse in patterns, with 5 – 15 sucks and a swallow sequence, followed by a breathing pause lasting 20 – 50 seconds. These patterned sequences are normal and part of a healthy feeding
  • Baby should be allowed to feed calmly without being bothered and prompted too much while nursing. Some moms are told they have to tickle and blow on the baby to get the baby to keep sucking while nursing. This is not usually necessary.
  • Newborns may need to be switched from one side to the other more than one time at each feeding. For example, you could nurse on the right breast for 5 – 6 minutes, stop and switch the baby to the left side for 8 – 10 minutes and may need to switch the baby back again to the right side for another 5 minutes.
  • Another example of a newborn feeding could be 5 – 7 minutes on one side and then baby does not want to nurse on the second side. However 30 – 35 minutes later, your baby may want to nurse on the second side for 20 minutes or more.

It’s most important that you pay attention to the baby’s needs. This is known as on demand or baby-lead feedings. When your baby roots, licks and seems to want to turn her/his head towards the breast, it’s time to nurse. Don’t worry about what time your baby last nursed, just nurse again. Infants cannot tell time!

Older babies

Your baby will change feeding behaviors over the first 40 days, then again between weeks 6 – 10 and then again between weeks 10 – 16. You may notice your 6-week old infant only nurses every three or four hours during the day and can sleep up to 5-6 hours at night.

After you and your baby have nursed your way through the first four months, you’ve made it! Everything you think could have happened, has probably happened already. You have readjusted your sleep routines multiple times, maybe changed some things in your diet and even changed your normal routines at home with your partner. The good news: despite any difficulties or worries, you’ve proven your amazing capacity to nourish your baby.

Feeding an older baby will get easier each week. The 4-month old will nurse 5 – 6 times per 24 hours and less and less at night. Of course, baby’s weight and gestation age will have to be taken into consideration when we discuss milk volume per each feeding.

Read up more on feeding the older baby from 4 – 12 months old. Feeding patterns are always changing through the first year of your baby’s life.

Looking for more information about establishing good feeding routines with your baby? Reach out to a healthcare professional on our team for more tips and personalized support.

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