- Breastfeeding by Stages
- Signs of Hunger
- Signs of Adequate Feeding
During your baby’s first weeks of life, you should breastfeed “on demand” whenever your baby shows signs of hunger. Avoid sticking to a strict schedule during the first few months of your baby’s life, since this can affect your milk production or lead to breast engorgement.
How to breastfeed your baby as they grow
The best approach with breastfeeding is to develop a flexible routine that can accommodate your changing schedule. While it may take some time to develop the confidence in understanding your baby’s needs, you can establish a feel for when your baby is hungry as your milk supply becomes established
During the first few weeks
- Feed your baby according to their appetite.
- Your breast milk may be initially thick and concentrated. This first milk, called colostrum, is extremely beneficial to your baby for its immunity-developing properties and high protein content.
- During the first few days, your baby may sleep for long hours or be awake and require regular feedings. Both are perfectly normal.
- Over the first few weeks, your milk will gradually lighten and become more plentiful. Most newborns will feed 8 times every 24 hours.
- Some babies may want to feed less than this, whereas others may choose to feed more.
During the first few months
- During the first few months, a few babies develop a feeding and sleeping schedule. Most, however, like to feed and sleep on an erratic schedule.
- Many newborns have a growth spurt at 3weeks and again at 6 weeks, which causes them to want to feed more frequently.
- Everything is normal if your baby is gaining weight and is content.
Up to 6 months
- Feeding becomes more predictable as you and your baby grow to know one another.
- Your baby may become more gregarious and less interested in eating unless they are extremely hungry.
- Most infants become quite efficient at breastfeeding and do not require lengthy feeding times to meet their nutritional demands.
- Breastfeeding alone provides all the food and liquid required during the first 6 months of life.
- When your baby is about 6 months old, introduce semi-solid foods after consulting with your doctor.
After 6 months
- Many experts advise continuing nursing and introducing solid foods for at least 12 months or longer.
- Breast milk can continue to be an important source of nutrients for your child during their second year of life.
How to tell if your baby is hungry
Many new moms find it difficult to understand the difference between their newborns' cries. Over time, however, you will be able to discern early hunger cues that can help you anticipate your baby’s needs.
Signs your baby is hungry may include the following:
- Opening their mouth
- Placing their hands and fists in their mouth
- Moving their head toward your chest
- Moving their head from side to side
- Whimpering or making grunting noises
You don’t need to worry about your baby becoming overly full. When your baby is content, they will likely let you know by ceasing feeding or pulling away from the breast or bottle.
How to tell if your baby is getting enough milk
Since it is difficult to determine how many ounces your baby is consuming during a feeding session if you are breastfeeding, here are signs your child is getting enough (or not enough) milk.
Signs your newborn is getting enough milk:
- Produces 4-6 diapers a day
- Produces regular bowel movements
- Sleeps well
- Stays alert when awake
- Shows weight gain at routine doctor visits
Signs your newborn is not getting enough milk:
- Unsatisfied after feedings
- Little to no weight gain
- Cries or fusses often
- Seems hungry often
If you have any concerns about your newborn's eating habits, consult your pediatrician.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding your baby?
Breast milk is quickly absorbed and unlike formula, unlikely to cause constipation. Breast milk also evolves in response to your baby’s changing needs. The amount of milk and its composition vary depending on the time of day, frequency with which you breastfeed, and the age of your infant.
There is even evidence that breastfeeding mothers who have been immunized against COVID-19 can pass on the antibodies through their breast milk. If your child is still too young for immunization, these antibodies may help protect them.
Breastfeeding is also good for mothers. Mothers who breastfeed have a reduced risk of:
Why may some mothers choose to stop breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding has the downside of causing less vaginal lubrication, which may make intercourse unpleasant. Breastfeeding also takes a lot of time and energy.
Parents may choose not to breastfeed due to:
- Personal choice
- Low milk supply
- Issues with your baby latching
- Lack of community support
- Medical conditions
- Lack of support in the workplace
Some people are more fortunate than others due to social, economic, and environmental factors that make breastfeeding easier. For others, it may be more challenging.
While breastfeeding is beneficial for both you and your baby, it is important to have both practical and moral support. If you are having trouble nursing, do not struggle alone; seek assistance from a midwife or lactation consultant.
Latest Healthy Kids News
Daily Health News
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Bouchez C. Getting On a Breastfeeding Schedule. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/establish-a-breastfeeding-schedule
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How Much and How Often to Breastfeed. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/breastfeeding/how-much-and-how-often.html
La Leche League International. Frequency of Feeding. https://www.llli.org/breastfeeding-info/frequency-feeding-frequently-asked-questions-faqs/
American Academy of Family Physicians. Breastfeeding: Hints to Help You Get Off to a Good Start. https://familydoctor.org/breastfeeding-hints-to-help-you-get-off-to-a-good-start/
BetterHealth. Breastfeeding. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/breastfeeding
Top How Do I Establish a Breastfeeding Schedule Related Articles
Babies QuizTake the Babies Quiz to learn what milestones and developments you can expect from your baby’s first year.
Baby Starting SolidsThese nutritious foods are great for your baby's first year, and include cereal and baby food. Our experts offer tips on starting solid foods with your baby.
Get the Facts About Bottle FeedingDo you need to warm a bottle? What's the best way to burp your baby? Find out what you need to know about bottle feeding and infant formula.
Breastfeeding (and Formula Feeding)It's important to know whether you will breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby prior to delivery, as the breasts' ability to produce milk diminishes soon after childbirth without the stimulation of breastfeeding. Breast milk is easily digested by babies and contains infection-fighting antibodies and cholesterol, which promotes brain growth. Formula-fed babies actually need to eat somewhat less often since formula is less readily digested by the baby than human milk. This article explores the advantages and disadvantages of both forms of feeding.
Breastfeeding: Common Breastfeeding ChallengesBreastfeeding an infant can cause common challenges both for the mother an infant. Some challenges include sore nipples, low milk supply, oversupply of milk, engorgement, plugged ducts, breast infection, fungal infections, nursing strike, inverted, flat, or very large nipples, breastfeeding a baby with health problems, and breastfeeding in special situations. Tips and helpful information can inform mothers how to manage and handles these challenges while continuing to breastfeed her baby.
What Are the Do's and Don'ts For a Newborn Baby?First-time parents caring for a newborn baby? Learn what to do and what not to do for your brand new child.
Feeding a Picky EaterDiscover these quick tips for feeding a picky eater. See the problems found with picky eaters and learn parenting strategies to help create healthy habits.
How Can I Help My Baby with Feeding Problems?Nearly half of children who develop normally have eating problems, whereas nearly 80% of children with developmental delays have eating problems. Help your baby with feeding problems by feeding smaller portions, focusing on the positive and providing pediatrician-recommended nutritional supplements.
How Long Can I Breastfeed My Baby?The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months. It is even fine to breastfeed your baby until they are two years old if this works for you and your infant.
Pregnancy: Birthing, Breastfeeding, and Parenting ClassesPreparing for a baby is an important step in parents' lives. Choosing the right birthing class and method (Lamaze, Bradley, etc.) is important for the mother, baby, and father or support giver. Parenting classes are also information for first time parents. Information is provided about diapering, feeding, and bathing your baby as well as the different stages of child development.
Problems When BreastfeedingBreast milk is the best diet for infants. Breastfeeding has several health benefits for the mother and her baby; moreover, it also builds an emotional bonding between them. Experts recommend exclusive breastfeeding until the baby is six months.
What Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding?Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to bond with your baby. It has myriad benefits for you as well as your baby, but you may want to avoid coffee, tea, chocolate, gassy foods, fish, spicy foods, eggs, nuts, milk and peppermint, parsley and sage as they may cause reactions in your baby.