Feeding on demand rather than to any set routine or schedule works best to ensure baby is getting what they need and you are maintaining a good milk supply. In the early days 10 – 12 feeds in 24hrs is common. As your baby’s stomach gets bigger and they take more milk at each feed this can reduce to 8 or more feeds in 24hrs.
You can expect to feed your baby every 2 – 3 hours during the day and at night. Feeds may now last between 20 and 40 minutes. Some baby’s will have a longer stretch between feeds once in a 24hr period. You calculate the time between feedings from the beginning of one feed to the beginning of the next feed.
Towards the end of the first 2 – 3 weeks your baby starts getting more efficient at taking the amount of milk they need from the breast, so feeds may get a little shorter and your baby may settle quicker.
You may start to notice a feeding pattern emerging naturally, which will make life a bit more predictable for you. You will know that feeding is going well when:
- your baby appears satisfied and contented after most feeds;
- your baby is bright, alert and active when awake;
- your baby is settling and sleeping after some feeds during the day or night;
- your baby is having plenty of wet and dirty nappies; and
- your baby is gaining weight.
Changing feeding patterns
Over the first few weeks you may begin to notice a pattern to your baby’s feeding and daily routine. This will develop naturally over time. Once your milk comes in you can expect your baby to have 5-6 (or more) wet nappies in 24hrs with at least 2 – 3 dirty nappies that are yellow in colour.
Settling your baby
If you find your baby is a little fussy at or between feeds here are some tips you can try. Some will work better at different times of the day or night, and remember every baby is unique – what works for one may not work for another. Dads can become very good at settling a fussy baby.
Why not try:
- the ‘magic baby hold’;
- a slight rocking motion side to side or in a rocking chair;
- a change of scenery— a different room, a different angle;
- low lights and soothing motions;
- a nice relaxing bath with low lights and quite room, you can talk or sing softly to your baby; or
- A walk outdoors, if weather permits. Using a baby sling rather than a pram has some benefits, the upright position and closeness to you will give maximum comfort.
As your baby gets older you might find some of the following helpful:
- music in the background if your baby has a favourite or familiar song;
- a gently slow style of dancing with your baby in your arms;
- white noise in the background - the vacuum, washer/dryer, radio static or running water; or
- a car ride, the scenic route or out shopping, the motion of the car and new people or sights can distract them.
Some babies feed very frequently at one particular time of the day, often in the evening. This is called ‘cluster feeding’ and is quite normal. Some babies ‘cluster feed’ for 2 – 3 hours before they settle. They may then settle for a long sleep.
If your baby has a particular time they like to ‘cluster feed’ it can be helpful to alter your routines to make time to be able to feed your baby on demand at this time and rest when they have settled.