Making milk for your baby
Your baby will grow a lot in the first year and so will your baby’s appetite! Knowing what to expect helps mothers relax more & enjoy breastfeeding.
How often should I breastfeed?
The first six weeks, your baby will breastfeed 8–12 times every 24 hours. Every baby is different, sometimes your baby may breastfeed every 2 or 3 hours. Other times they may cluster feed and breastfeed every hour for a few hours, then take a longer break until they want to breastfeed again. The key is to keep track of how many times they breastfeed, not how many hours apart they breastfeed. Breastfeed them when they are showing hunger cues, for example:
- Sticking out their tongue
- Sucking their hands
- Moving their head side to side
How long should a breastfeeding session last?
In the beginning, breastfeeding can take about 30–40 minutes total on both sides. It takes time for your body and breasts to adjust to making milk. It also takes time for your baby to learn to breastfeed well.
As your baby gets older, breastfeeding may take only 10–15 minutes total. Your baby is able to breastfeed in a shorter time and still get the milk they need. Some babies start to breastfeed less at night and breastfeed more during the day as they start to sleep longer stretches. Every baby is different, so follow your baby’s cues.
Why does my baby pull off my breast? Don’t they like breastfeeding?
In the first few days of breastfeeding, your baby may pull off of your breast if they are not positioned well. Make sure their chin is not pushed down towards their chest. This position makes it hard to swallow so your baby may pull off to readjust their head and neck into the right position.
To help your baby get into the right position, support behind their neck with the web of your hand. Their head will tilt back a little and their nose will be pointing slightly up, away from your breast as you bring them towards you. When they are latched, their chin will be touching your breast and there may be a tiny space between your breast and their nose.
As your baby gets older, they may start to pull off the breast because they get distracted. A natural part of your baby’s development is to want to explore and see their surroundings. Your baby still enjoys breastfeeding but wants to be involved with what is going around them. This can last a few days or weeks. Some mothers find it helpful to go into a quiet room to breastfeed their baby, so the baby can focus on breastfeeding.
How do I know my baby is getting enough?
Feeding your baby on demand when they are showing hunger cues will help your body make the milk your baby needs. Other signs that you are making what your baby needs is counting how many wet and dirty diapers they have. Remember what goes in, must come out!
The first few days, your baby will have a few wet nappies each day. By day 5, they will have 6–8 wet nappies daily. Over the first week, the amount of dirty nappies they have will increase. During this time, their stool will change color from black and sticky to yellow and seedy.
If you are concerned that your baby is not having enough wet or dirty nappies, or not feeding enough, contact your baby’s healthcare provider. Get help from a lactation consultant to help make sure you are latching and positioning your baby well for breastfeeding and giving your body the best chance to make enough milk for your baby.
It is normal for your baby to lose a little weight the first few days. Your baby should be back to their birth weight by the time they are ten days old. Your baby’s healthcare provider will also make sure your baby is gaining the right weight for their age.
Why don’t my breasts feel full anymore?
When your baby is around 3–4 weeks old, your body has learned how much milk your baby needs. Your breasts may not feel as full as they did when you first started breastfeeding. If you skip or delay a breastfeeding session, you may notice this fullness again. If you do, breastfeed or pump as soon as you can to avoid breast tissue damage.
Why does my baby suddenly want to breastfeed more often?
When your baby has a growth spurt, they will want more breast milk. They will breastfeed more often to help your breasts make more milk. The more they breastfeed, the more milk you will make. During these times, let your baby breastfeed as often as they want. Make sure they have a good latch and breastfeeding is comfortable.
Your baby will have several growth spurts through their first year (and childhood). These periods usually only last a few days. Contact your baby’s healthcare provider if they last longer or you have any other concerns.
This is general information and does not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. If you have a problem you cannot solve quickly, seek help right away. Every baby is different, if in doubt, contact your physician or other healthcare provider.
Mohrbacher N. Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple: A Guide for Helping Mothers. Amarillo, TX: Hale Publishing, LP; 2010.
Spangler A. Breastfeeding: A Parent’s Guide. 9th ed. Cincinnati, OH: Specialty Lithographing Co; 2010.