How Often Should I Breastfeed My Newborn?
Updated: Mar 13, 2022
This depends on your plan for breastfeeding and also depends on your newborn!
If your desire is to exclusively breastfeed, the best way to make this happen is to practice responsive feeding (also called feeding on demand). This means responding to baby's feeding cues as often as they show them. Typically, this means you'll be breastfeeding 10-12 times a day. At a minimum, baby should be fed every three hours - even if this means waking them to nurse.
For most new parents this comes as a bit of a surprise. Oh everyone knows they'll be getting a lot less sleep than normal, but they don't necessarily think of the implications of feeding 10-12 times a day. For many couples I work with, this usually means mom is nursing baby nearly around the clock in the early days and the partner is taking care of the home and of course making sure mom has her water and anything else she needs!
So how do you recognize when a baby's hungry? Well, there are feeding cues and some of them probably aren't what you're expecting! Be sure to download the handy feeding cues cheat sheet I made, too!
Feeding cues progress as follows:
1. Baby enters into a rapid eye movement state of sleep. You can see their eyes moving beneath their eyelids. This apparently inactive state is prime time to latch newborns onto the breast. This is an easy cue to miss and if your baby is awake before getting hungry, this is not a cue they'll display. (And if you're not sure how to latch a newborn or what a correct latch looks like - be sure to check out my Intro to Breastfeeding service for expecting parents.)
2. Baby begins making sucking motions and rooting (mouth open and looking to latch onto something). They may or may not have open eyes at this point.
3. Baby makes hand to mouth motions - often with the hand in a fist. Baby may suck on their fingers then pull it away unsatisfied.
4. Baby begins moving arms and legs around, agitated.
5. Baby begins crying. This is the last cue and is not an ideal time to try to latch baby to the breast.
Try returning baby skin to skin with the mother on her chest until baby calms and begins showing feeding cues again (though they will not pass through REM again if awake) and attempt latching at that time when baby is calmer.
If you do plan to breastfeed, having your postpartum support system built up before giving birth will be a huge benefit! Keep my information at hand and take a look at the services I offer as a lactation counselor - I also host a lactation support group twice a month where you can meet other moms and benefit from the presence of a lactation counselor who can help troubleshoot and answer questions. Often, there's no way to be prepared for every possible eventuality and it's helpful to simply have a professional you can call to come to assess the situation in the comfort of your own home.
Some parents choose to feed on a schedule of every 3 hours. If you choose to do this, know that 3 hours is counted from the beginning of one feed to the beginning of the next feed, not the end of one feed to the beginning of the next. One feed can last between 10 -20 ish minutes depending on your baby. If you feed on a schedule like this you'll be feeding baby around 8 times a day.
If you choose to feed on a schedule, your milk supply will likely not increase as much as baby needs (due to less milk extraction and less frequent nipple stimulation - two key factors to making more milk) which can lead to supplementing with formula. This is a valid choice and it's important to have this information before deciding how you'll approach feeding your baby.
If you supplement with formula, you can do so with a syringe (called a jerenguilla here in Spain), bottle with the smallest, lowest flow nipple, and consider feeding with the paced feeding method so baby can more easily switch between breast and bottle.
As a doula and counselor, I support your infant feeding decisions and help you feel totally confident along the way!
To keep these feeding cues fresh in your mind - download the free Feeding Cues Cheat Sheet here!
Giving birth in Madrid or a new mom in Madrid? Looking for support on the wild ride called parenthood?
Look no further - book a free discovery call with me (Madison - doula in Madrid) today and let's chat about how together we can work to make your experience a positive one! And be sure to check out the Madoula homepage.
Giving birth is one of the most vulnerable moments in a person's life. There are many factors to consider at all times. The support of a doula from home to hospital adds an additional layer of support for both the birthing person and partner. Giving birth in Spain, far from your home country, can be an empowering experience you approach feeling totally at peace and ready!