Newborn babies need to feed frequently – usually 8-10 times every 24 hours. Breastmilk breaks down in a babies tummy in about 90 minutes, therefore babies need to be fed often! Exactly how often a baby feeds each day and for how long varies from one baby and mother to the next, and from one feed to the next.

The most important thing is to respond to your baby’s feeding cues promptly and appropriately. Your baby will use body language and facial expressions to indicate that she is getting hungry and needs to be fed again.  She will let you know in her own way, and as a new parent it is very helpful to get to know what these cues look like so that you can respond quickly to them.

It is much better to to learn to read your baby’s feeding cues and follow their lead than to watch the clock. A baby’s appetite varies throughout the day, just like it does for adults, so feeding times may vary from feed to feed. In addition, as babies get older, they get stronger and more efficient at draining the breast, so feed times usually become shorter.

It’s important to always allow your baby to fully finish the first breast before offering the second breast. Let your baby finish feeding and come off the breast by herself, rather than taking her off when she is still swallowing. Usually when you do this, your baby will be sleepy and content and may need a little rest before being ready for the second side.

Generally, feeds will be finished in under an hour. If feeds are regularly taking more than an hour, it could indicate a problem with the latch and seeking the advise of a lactation consult is indicated.

Hunger cues can be divided into 3 stages: early, mid and late.

The best time to feed your baby is when they are showing early hunger cues. By the time a baby is showing late hunger cues and is crying, they have become too worked up to feed well. In this heightened state, a baby in not able to shape their mouth and tongue to latch well nor is their nervous system in a good state for digestion. Now they will need a soothing cuddle and comforting to calm and settle them down so that they can feed well.

Feeding your baby at the earliest sign of hunger helps baby develop confidence that you will always respond to their needs. Responding promptly to your baby’s hunger cues contributes to her developing a healthy and secure attachment to you.

Early hunger cues are:

  • Stirring from sleep
  • Opening mouth/licking
  • Turning head to the side/seeking the breast/rooting

Mid hunger cues are:

  • Stretching
  • Increasing physical movement
  • Hand going to the mouth

Late hunger cues are:

  • Crying
  • Agitated body movements
  • Turning red in the face

For more information about feeding cues and early newborn feeding behaviour please make an appointment to see me.

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