There is so much to know about breastfeeding. One of the most common questions is “how long do I feed my baby on each breast?”
And, while the answer used to be a simple “fifteen minutes on each side,” recent information shows us that is not always the case. How do you know when your baby has had enough to eat? When it’s time to switch breasts when feeding? Or if it’s even necessary to switch?
Newborn Feeding: Consistency Is Key
When your baby is first born, they generally eat about eight to twelve times a day, or approximately every two hours. According to kidshealth.org, this is important to get them used to latching and feeding. It’s important for you because the more you feed your baby initially, the better your milk supply. For the same reason, it’s recommended that you don’t skip feedings until your milk supply is fully established at around two to three weeks. Consistency is key in the beginning.
In these early days it’s suggested that you try to feed your baby from both breasts. Instead of watching the clock, it’s now advised that you pay more attention to your baby and your breasts. It’s possible, depending on how fast of an eater you have that your baby could be satisfied in ten minutes, while some babies may take longer, up to fifteen or twenty minutes. So, setting a timer may not tell you all you need to know.
atch your baby for signs that they’re finished. Thebump.com says to watch for when your baby stops sucking and swallowing. If they’re sleepy try to stimulate them by rubbing their feet or around their mouth. When it appears that your baby is no longer interested, you can gently compress your breast to see if they are truly finished, and to ensure that you’ve released all of your milk supply on that side. You should also pay attention to your own body. When your breasts have released all of their milk, they become much softer to the touch. The more you breastfeed, the easier it will be to read both your baby’s and your own body’s signs that it’s time to switch.
Once Your Milk Supply Is Established…
While there is a general agreement that switching breasts at each feeding is important in the early stages, that is not always the case once your milk supply has been established. According to WebMD, there is information that now shows the benefits to single breastfeeding. This recommendation is based on the two kinds of milk that your baby gets when feeding. The first is the foremilk. This is what your baby gets when they initially latch. Foremilk is watery and hydrates your baby while providing minerals, sugar, and protein. The second kind of milk is the hind milk which isn’t released until later in the feeding process. The hindmilk is fattier, provides more nutrition and is essential to your baby’s growth. The benefit to single breastfeeding is that your baby is assured to get both the foremilk and the hind milk if you’re only feeding on one breast. Conversely, if you switch breasts too quickly in the middle of feeding, your baby may miss out on the hindmilk completely. If you choose to utilize the single breast method, you can express your second breast to relieve any discomfort and keep your supply up.
Is There a Right or Wrong Way?
Whether you choose to alternate breasts each feeding or utilize the single breast method, there is no wrong way to do it. If your baby is only interested in one breast at a time, that’s OK. Research from babygooroo.com tells us that each breast can provide a full meal. Simply, start with the next breast on your next feeding or express the milk. If your baby needs twenty minutes on both breasts, then that is the schedule that works for you. The most important thing is that your baby is getting what they need. If you’re confused or just want reassurance, check with your pediatrician or you can contact a lactation consultant that specializes in teaching new moms how to breast feed.
So, how do you know what is right for you and your baby? The answer is: trial and error combined with whatever works for your family. If your baby is eating regularly, sleeping regularly, has four to six wet diapers and regular bowel movements—you’re doing it right. As with most skills, practice makes perfect, the more you and your baby breastfeed the more comfortable and confident you’ll be.