How often to breastfeed? As a nursing mother, you have every right to fret about the quantity of milk that you are feeding your baby every time. Is my baby getting enough milk during every session? Am I feeding him correctly? Is the frequency and schedule that I follow the right way to do it? Benefits of breastfeeding? These are some of the common questions that arise in the minds of new mothers. As a young mother, there are two types of feeding systems that you can follow – Feeding on Demand & Scheduled Feedings.
Feeding on Demand is the system where you feed based on the cues provided by your baby. This is said to be the best type of feeding. When your baby starts feeling hungry, it will give you enough signals. Some of the common symptoms to watch out for are the following:
- Sucking on thumbs, toes or fingers
- Restless soon after waking up
- Sucking on to the chest of the person who is carrying him
- Dry lips which indicate dehydration
- Crying in a short, low-pitched voice
- Licking his lips
- Frequent opening or closing his mouth
- Trying to get into a nursing position
- Punching the person who is carrying him
- Fidgeting around unnecessarily in an irritable mood
Frequency of feeding
When a baby is aged between one and two months old, you should nurse him around 8 to 12 times per day. Ideally, you need to nurse every 2 or 3 hours. When your baby is aged between 2 and six months old, you should nurse around 7 to 9 times per day. This can reduce to around 4 to 6 times per day when you introduce solid foods to your baby. When your baby reaches 12 months of age, he can go without feed for about four hours or more as well, because he is already introduced to solid foods.
This is why you should always feed your baby on demand rather than feed based on your alarm clock. People who follow a strict schedule for feeding, always follow the clock than focus on the hunger cues of their baby. Therefore, they overfeed or underfeed their babies. Today, many people are transitioning from scheduled feedings to feeding on demand, because they understand that it is more natural and satisfying than the former.
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The numbers mentioned here are just the average numbers of times that you need to feed your baby per day, based on his age. However, a mother can feed her baby whenever she wants, based on the baby’s hunger cues. When the baby’s tummy is full, and he sleeps and plays without disturbance for about 3 to 4 hours, it is best to allow him to play than force-feed him.
During the first few days of nursing, you may find slight difficulty in getting your baby to latch on to your nipples and in finding the right position of breastfeeding that is comfortable for you and your baby. Don’t panic; it would take at least a week for you to figure out your breastfeeding schedule and understand the hunger cues of your baby. However, you can rest assured because once you learn to understand the cues, you will never have any doubts if your baby is getting enough milk or not.