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Your newborn baby is growing quickly, and that means she needs to eat often. Follow your baby’s lead. It is normal and healthy for your baby to eat 8-12 times in a 24-hour period. That’s about once every 2-3 hours!
In these early days, each breastfeeding session might last 25-40 minutes, but this can vary based on how hungry or sleepy your baby is. It is important to remember that, in addition to food, babies get their hydration, comfort and snuggle time while at the breast.
Offer Both Breasts
Feed your baby on the fuller breast first until she naturally comes off or falls asleep, then try to burp her and offer the other breast. Breastfed babies often don’t burp, but it never hurts to try. Sitting your baby up to burp can also help wake her up, which may help her eat more actively on the second breast.
Cramps While Breastfeeding
In the days after delivery, you may feel uterine cramping when you breastfeed. This is completely normal and can last for several days or weeks. Cramps are a sign that your uterus is contracting and shrinking to its pre-pregnancy size. If you have any concerns, reach out to your healthcare provider.
Your baby may have a period of time during the day when she wants to nurse more often—sometimes every hour. This “cluster feeding” tends to happen in the evenings for the first 4-6 weeks of a baby’s life. As long as your baby is cluster feeding only during one part of the day, you can be sure that all is well and she is healthy.
Follow your baby’s lead, and offer her the breast whenever she is showing hunger cues. Cluster feeding helps your baby get what she needs and also boosts your milk supply. Talk with a lactation consultant or your pediatrician if your baby is cluster feeding for more than one stretch during the day or if you have any concerns about her feeding pattern.
As your baby grows and her body changes, her feeding patterns will likely change, too. You may hear these periods called “growth spurts,” and they are a normal part of a baby’s development. During these times, your baby may spend 1-2 days nursing more often and for longer sessions. Some babies may be also be more fussy during this time. You can learn about calming your crying baby here.
Growth spurts are not always predictable, but they often happen around 1-3 weeks, around 4-6 weeks, at 3 months, and again at 6 months. As your baby grows, she’ll need to eat more, and these increased feedings help build your milk supply. If you feel your baby isn’t getting enough to eat, talk to your pediatrician and a lactation consultant.
Introducing a Bottle
Most lactation consultants recommend that you wait to offer a bottle until your baby is around 4 weeks old and breastfeeding is well established. Many families find it helpful to have someone other than mom, such as dad, grandma or another caregiver offer the first bottle. Learn how to help your baby move between the bottle and breast by downloading Bottle-Feeding Your Breastfed Baby: A Guide for Success.
Breastmilk provides complete nutrition for the first 6 months. Once your baby is able to sit up on her own, has good control of her head and neck and begins to show interest in food, you can start offering solid foods.
Great options for first foods are pureed or soft meats, fruits and vegetables. Breastmilk and formula will still provide the bulk of nutrition for your baby’s first year. Visit the Solid Foods page to learn more about introducing solids.
Breastfeeding is recommended for the first 2 years of your baby’s life and can continue for as long as you both wish. When you are ready to wean, do it slowly over time. Choose the breastfeeding or pumping session you or your baby like the least and remove it from your day. Give your body 3-5 days to adjust before removing the next feeding session.
This slow and steady approach to weaning helps your body and your baby transition more smoothly away from breastfeeding. Talk to your pediatrician about how to replace your breastmilk with formula or cow’s milk. (Cow’s milk is only recommended for babies 1 year of age or older.)