Timing the feed is essential for parents in order to establish a feeding routine for the baby. Feeding on demand is one way to establish a feeding routine. Measuring the time between feedings is more practical from the beginning of every feed. This way you can measure the exact time as opposed to the end of a feeding session which is not always clear. While bottle feeding is a good alternative option prefer to breastfeed your baby if you can for the first 6 months of their life.
Newborns will breastfeed about 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour cycle, and keeping count is vital to gauge your baby’s general health.
Some moms will want to measure the time between feeds from the end of one feed to the beginning of the next.
At the same time, other moms will respond to their baby’s hunger cues and feed on demand without keeping count.
Let’s review why timing between feeds is essential and look at other aspects of establishing a feeding routine.
Why is keeping track of feeding time important?
Keeping track of the time between feeding sessions is an excellent way to monitor your baby’s health. You will be advised by hospital staff to keep track of your baby’s feeding routine.
If you’re unaware of the feeding time, it could lead to slow weight gain; newborns should not go for longer than 4 hours without feeding, even overnight.
This will be a point of discussion at the regular health check-ups where their baby is weighed and measured.
The time between feeds is essential because it allows mothers to establish a feeding routine and pick up on changes early enough to resolve them.
Why should you feed on demand?
Newborns should be fed on demand for at least the first month. They will feed about every 90 minutes to 3 hours, about 8 to 12 times daily.
Breastmilk digests very quickly, which means your little one will be hungry more often, which is a good thing as it stimulates your milk production.
Between 1 and 2 months old, your baby will feed about 7 to 9 times a day, and you will be settling into a feeding routine. It is essential not to let your newborn go for longer than 4 hours without feeding.
If your baby is asleep, you will have to wake your little one for feeding.
Feeding on demand ensures that your baby never goes hungry for too long. Newborns will typically feed for about 20 minutes or longer per feed session at one or both breasts.
As your baby gets a little older and masters breastfeeding, they usually feed for about 5 to 10 minutes on each side.
You will be able to establish a feeding routine through feeding on demand. You will also begin reading and understanding the many cues your little one shares with you.
Counting the time between feedings
It is advisable to count the time between feeding sessions from the beginning simply because you can record the time more accurately.
The end of some feeding sessions may be blurry, especially at times when your little one dozes off, wakes up, and continues feeding.
Initially, the time it takes to breastfeed will depend on you, your baby, and other external factors like the weather.
Factors that influence initial breastfeeding are:
- Your milk supply usually comes in 2 to 5 days after birth.
- Your let-down reflex, which causes milk to flow from the nipple, may happen immediately or after a few minutes into a feeding.
- Your milk flow will either be slow or fast, which determines how long your baby will feed.
- Your baby has a good latch that covers much of your areola, which is the dark circle of skin around your nipple. A good latch is essential for effective feeding.
- Your baby may begin gulping right away or might begin feeding slowly.
If your baby struggles to develop a feeding pattern and feeds for too long or too short, you need to discuss this with your midwife or doctor.
It is also important to alternate breasts so they receive roughly the same nursing time during the day.
This will help sustain your milk supply in both breasts and prevent unnecessary pain when one of your breasts becomes too full.
You can begin by alternating your breast at the beginning of every session or switching halfway through.
Keeping this in mind, you should do what is most comfortable for you and your baby.
When you switch breasts in a feeding session, use that time to burp your baby. Some babies burp a lot, while others may burp simply through the movement of the switch.
This differs between babies and feeding sessions. Your little one may also spit milk when burped, which is normal.
If your baby throws up most of the feeding, you should contact your doctor as there might be a problem that requires medical attention.
To gauge if your baby is feeding enough, your newborn should have at least six wet diapers at about 5 days old and is gaining weight well.
Your breasts will feel softer and less full after each feeding, and your little one will sleep well between feedings.
Factors that affect breastfeeding time
This varies between babies; some babies can take a full feeding in 8 minutes, while others may need 30 minutes or longer to get the same amount of breast milk.
Here are some factors that affect breastfeeding time:
Your baby’s age
Older babies can typically get enough breast milk in a shorter period, while younger babies will tend to feed for longer.
A sleepy baby may not breastfeed as well or as fast as an awake and alert baby. Your baby may fall asleep while feeding, and you will have to wake your baby up. This could happen during night feeding sessions which are important sessions that should not be missed, particularly with newborns.
Your milk flow
If your breast milk flows quickly and you have an active let-down reflex, more milk is immediately available for your baby.
But if your flow is slow, your delayed let-down may take longer for your baby to feed. A slower supply will equate to more time at the breast.
Your baby’s health
Babies born with health issues may easily get tired while breastfeeding, and frequent breaks can prolong feeding time.
Your baby’s latch
A good latch will help your baby feed better and get a full feeding in less time. Try different feeding positions to find the best position for your little one.
Your milk capacity
If you have a small breast milk capacity or your baby is going through a growth spurt, your baby may spend more time breastfeeding to get more breast milk.
You’ve got your feeding routine under wraps, and suddenly, your little one is hungrier than usual and will feed for longer.
Not to worry, this is a growth spurt or a period of rapid growth that lasts anywhere from one day to a week or longer, depending on how old your baby is.
It can take a few minutes for your milk to let down and begin flowing well. If your baby falls asleep or stops nursing before the let-down, they won’t get enough milk.
It’s important to remember that your milk changes from foremilk to hindmilk as your baby breastfeeds. Hindmilk is higher in fat and calories, which helps your baby gain weight.
Growth spurts are when your baby puts on weight, grows in length, and even masters a new skill quickly. The times you should expect growth spurts are:
- Two weeks
- Three weeks
- Six weeks
- Three months
- Six months
This does not occur like clockwork, as every baby is different, so don’t be too concerned if your baby doesn’t grow more quickly at these times.
A growth spurt can happen at any time, not just during the times mentioned.
Your baby’s feeding habit is usually your best guide, but also note your baby’s behavior as being fussy, hungry, and tired are also signs to watch out for.
Your little one will want to feed and sleep during a growth spurt.
If after a week, your baby is still not back to her regular routine and sleeping more than usual, you should schedule a check-up to make sure everything is still fine.
The recommended breastfeeding period is about 12 months, but this is a personal choice, and not all moms will be afforded this luxury.
For the first 6 months, your baby should be exclusively breastfed; after that, you can introduce solids and other liquid drinks like water and fruit juice but a minimal amount.
Besides containing antibodies, breast milk helps to lessen your baby’s chances of diarrhea, ear infection, and bacterial meningitis or lessen the symptoms.
Breastfeeding also helps to protect babies from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), diabetes, obesity, and asthma.
Moms also benefit from breastfeeding, which helps shrink the uterus and burn calories.
Breastfeeding also helps to reduce the risk of diseases like:
- Breast cancer, uterine cancer, and ovarian cancer
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
How long is too long for my baby to be at my breast?
Generally, if your baby is actively sucking at your breast for over 45 minutes per feeding, it could mean that your little one is not getting enough milk.
You should see a lactation specialist who can help solve the issue.
Why does breastfeeding take longer than bottle feeding?
The milk flow from your breast is not as consistent as a bottle. Breast milk usually starts flowing slowly, then flows faster once your milk lets down.
The flow will slow down again as your breast empties. Interestingly, babies regulate their suck speed to the flow of breast milk.
Is feeding on demand better for bottle-fed babies?
You should feed your baby when they are hungry. Most babies settle into a feeding routine but will still vary in how often they want to feed.
Babies tend to feed little and often, and although your baby may not finish their bottle, never force your baby to finish the bottle. Always be led by your baby.
Keeping count of how many times your baby feeds and measuring the intervals between feeds is good practice, as this will allow you to monitor your little one’s health and development.
This information is vital at your baby’s regular check-ups and will help to identify problems when and if they arise.
Most mothers develop a sound feeding schedule for their little ones, serving as a daily guide to healthy feeding.
It helps moms quickly pick up on any health issues their little one has developed, and early treatment is always the better option.
Breast milk should be your priority simply because of its natural goodness, and keeping your milk supply up to demand will give your little one a healthy start to life.