How long should each breastfeeding session take?
Many parents wonder how long they should be nursing, especially since it feels like they have to do it like 73 million times a day. However, it's important to remember that there are so many variables for every nursing parent and baby such as age and functional ability of baby, milk production, storage capacity, and more. Generally, a breastfeeding session can last anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes, depending on these factors. The duration of each breastfeeding session can and will vary from baby to baby.
1. Newborn babies often nurse for longer periods, as they are still learning to breastfeed, may have a weaker suck if they were born early or small, or if the milk is still in the colostral phase. That colostrum is quite thick and takes a while to get out even if there is only a small amount of it. As babies grow and become more efficient at breastfeeding, the duration of each session MAY shorten, however it's totally normal if it doesn't! Also, it's important to note that each baby has their own unique feeding pattern and preferences.
2. It's recommended to let baby nurse on one breast until they have finished or shown signs of slowing down, and then offer the other breast. When some babies have taken everything they need from one side, they sweetly slip off looking content. But some other rude babies may partake in hanging on for dear life, sucking your soul through your breasts. Some babies may nurse from one breast per feeding, while others may require both breasts to feel satisfied. And still others need 3 or 4 breasts per feeding! No, you do not need to grow more breasts, just switch baby from left to right twice.
3. It's also important know that in the first week or so until baby is back to birth weight, we need to feed baby at least every 2-3 hours during the day, and every 3 hours overnight to help them gain weight and stimulate your breasts to make enough milk. After that point, it's recommended to pay attention to your baby's cues and feeding patterns rather than strictly adhering to a specific time frame, but most babies still need to feed at least 8 times in 24 hours. Look for signs of active sucking and swallowing, a relaxed and contented baby after feeding, and appropriate weight gain as indicators that your baby is receiving enough milk.
If you have concerns about your baby's feeding habits or are unsure if they are getting enough milk, it's always a good idea to consult with a lactation consultant or healthcare provider who can offer personalized guidance based on your specific situation. Breastfeeding is hard! You got this and we got you!