Breastfeeding is a beautiful and intimate bonding experience between a mother and child that provides many benefits to both. There are many articles and books on the subject, and many recommendations differ from author to author. As such, many first time mothers find themselves wondering, “How long should a newborn nurse?”
In this article, we will discuss many aspects of nursing, such as the frequency of breastfeeding, the length of each breastfeeding interval and the age that newborns should be nursed until. Keep reading for common breastfeeding questions.
How Often Should I Feed My Newborn?
Newborn babies need to be nursed between 8 and 12 times a day. While this frequency may seem high compared to formula-fed newborns, breast milk is easier for newborns to digest. This means that they can process breastmilk easily, and as a result, they need to be fed more often. When first starting out, newborns will typically need to nurse every 1.5 to 3 hours. This frequency slows as the baby gets older, allowing for more time in-between feedings. A growing newborn will also develop a more consistent feeding schedule over time.
Although nursing should occur whenever the newborn displays that they are hungry, a newborn should never go more than 4 hours without being fed. This also includes when a newborn is sleeping. If your newborn does not wake up on their own, you should rouse your baby in order to comply with this nursing frequency.
How Long Does Nursing Take?
Most nursing sessions for newborns last between 20 to 45 minutes. These feedings become shorter as the newborn grows and becomes more adept at suckling. At three months old, nursing time could decrease to as little 10 minutes. Meanwhile, a 6- to 10-month-old will be prone to distractions, and more interruptions during nursing could cause the nursing time to increase. Nursing duration can also depend on how quickly your breast milk flows, how full your breasts are and whether or not your infant is suckling correctly.
There is no “ideal” amount of time that a newborn should nurse. It’s important to monitor your newborn’s weight gain and to pay attention to cues that they are full and satisfied. A breastfeeding woman’s body is incredibly proficient at recognizing a baby’s appetite, as it can increase or decrease breastmilk production as needed. Trust that your body will naturally respond to your newborn’s feeding habits and allow your newborn to feed when they’re hungry.
A newborn’s appetite is closely tied to growth spurts which can affect how long a newborn will nurse. They will desire longer and more frequent feedings for high caloric nutrition to fuel their growing bodies. If the frequency or duration of nursing seems to have increased, do not worry about regulating or restricting their intake. These growth spurts typically happen between them being one to two weeks old, two months, four months and six months old.
How Long Should a Newborn Nurse?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding until the infant is at least a year old. However, they must absolutely be nursed for no less than six months. The breastfeeding period is crucial to a newborn’s development, and they require many calories. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding well past this age, saying two years old (or beyond) is the minimum age. There is no definite time when you should stop breastfeeding your child. Extended breastfeeding is a fairly regular occurrence.
When it comes to nursing a newborn, the body has many natural instincts that can accurately guide a new mother. Paired with the signs from your newborn, you will find that you’ll intuitively know when your newborn has been adequately fed.
If you are unsure how long a newborn should nurse or are concerned that your baby isn’t gaining enough weight, visit a walk-in clinic that is part of the UrgentMED Network. Medical professionals will be able to quickly examine your infant on a walk-in basis at any of the 13 Southern California locations. Find the UrgentMED network nearest to you to address all of your newborn’s health concerns.