Source: Carole Hervé - IBCLC Certified Lactation Consultant

Wondering when, how often, and how long to breastfeed your baby?

At birth, bottle-fed babies are often given a rhythm to avoid overloading their stomachs and harming their digestion.

Some imagine then that it is the same for breastfed babies. However, breastfed babies do not work the same way. Why ? Because the production of milk is set up little by little. That the milk is produced in sufficient quantity and quality according to the personal needs of the baby and this in a tailor-made way.

Many moms wonder if their breastfed baby has eaten enough. It is indeed difficult to assess what the baby is drinking when the breast is not graduated! A healthcare professional, for example, will check whether the baby is gaining weight regularly and will report the weight on the reference curve for breastfed babies established by the WHO. For your part, you will pay attention to your infant's diapers. Indeed, a baby who receives milk in sufficient quantity must have layers heavy with stools and urine.

Also, if differences can be observed from one baby to another, from one breastfeeding to another, including in the same siblings, certain behaviors are common to many babies.

Extract from the proceedings of the LLL 2005 Congress - Baby's rhythms.

How often does a baby breastfeed?

In the first few weeks, a baby nurses an average of 8 to 12 times per 24 hours . We can therefore estimate a feed every 2-3 hours during the first weeks of the baby's life.

This is an average, it can be more or less. Feeding times can be irregular within a day, from baby to baby, and from day to day. Especially the first days of the baby's life.

It should not be forgotten that until then, baby was fed in the belly of his mother, and this, throughout the day. So inevitably, once born, baby needs to find his own rhythm .

Generally, when baby is born, he nurses for the first time within 6 hours of birth.

Then the baby usually goes to sleep. Note that a newborn can very well take the time when he is only in a state of drowsiness. No need to wait until baby is awake, moaning or crying to present the breast. It is good to have baby breastfeed at least 2 to 3 times minimum the first 24 hours.

How long between feedings?

The gastric emptying of breast milk is so rapid that the baby can suckle without difficulty just twenty minutes after the end of his feed. There is therefore no reason to make a breastfed baby wait as one might do for a baby receiving infant formula. The gastric emptying of the latter is much slower: about 3 to 4 hours

How long is a breastfeed?

It is impossible to give a breastfeeding duration because it also depends on the flow of milk and especially the quality of the baby's sucking.

Some babies suckle in 5 minutes, others take 30 to 40 minutes or even more. Relying on the duration of the feeding to evaluate the feeding is therefore a false benchmark.

It is also very clear that the duration of the feeding varies from one child to another, and even from one feeding to another.

The time can seem long when we start breastfeeding and it feels like our baby is spending the day at the breast . This learning time is nevertheless essential to ensure a good calibration of the lactation and to give the baby every chance to gain strength quickly and to suckle effectively. In these early stages, pay attention to the sucking-swallowing rhythm, a parameter that shows that your baby is receiving milk well when he suckles.

Note that many bottle-fed babies also take a long time to eat.

Then, as he grows, baby will be more energetic and will suckle more actively and effectively. Feedings will therefore be shorter.


When your baby is at the breast, make sure his sucking motion is full and slow and that regular swallows are audible. It then detaches naturally from the breast and it will very quickly fill a diaper.

As a precaution, most mothers present the second breast to their baby, whether or not he suckles according to his appetite.


Here are some signs that identify that baby is hungry . These are the first signs that appear long before baby starts crying. It is therefore good to give the breast as soon as these first signs appear and not to wait for him to cry (in which case it will be more difficult for him to latch on properly).

  • His breathing changes
  • He makes eye, mouth and face movements even with his eyelids closed.
  • He moves his arms and legs, he stretches, he puts his hands to his mouth and to his face.
  • He makes the sucking motions with his mouth

Peak days

You may have noticed that your baby tends to be more demanding on certain days. We often hear that he is in a “growth spurt ”. However, we do not notice that he is growing, that he is getting bigger on those days or even that he is drinking more milk. What happens then? He reaches a milestone in his neurological development (eg he begins to smile more attentively) and he needs to find new reference points. It returns to its base somehow either the breast and your arms to take this step.

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