Breastfeeding

How Long Should The Feedings Last?

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Two questions I am asked frequently by breastfeeding moms are, “How long should my feedings last?” and “Do I need to feed the baby on each side for every feeding?”

I never give moms a “time” to determine that they are feeding adequately or that their baby is finished feeding. The clock will tell you nothing about how much your baby has eaten; only how long they have spent on the breast! This is not objective and tells you nothing about whether the baby got enough milk. Remember, women have been breastfeeding way before we had clocks! To learn the best ways to tell that your baby has received enough milk, watch my video “Four ways to tell your baby got enough breast milk”.

It is very common and sometimes, in the beginning, even desirable for your baby to only nurse on one breast at a feeding. Depending on how hungry he/she is, the time of day, how full your breasts are, etc...The baby may be getting enough to eat from just one breast.

As the baby gets older the feedings typically get shorter not longer and that can give you the feeling that they “are not eating enough”. This is not the case and more likely the baby is just becoming more efficient in getting the milk out quicker. This is one of the advantages to breastfeeding! The whole feeding may only take 5-10 minutes. If he pulls away after the first side, he may just be full and letting you know.

Some babies may even develop a preference for one side over the other. Most women have a “dominant breast”, one that makes more milk. The baby can start to prefer this side because the “reward” is greater. I know many women who exclusively nurse on one breast and make plenty of milk to completely feed their baby. You don’t actually need two breasts to breastfeed. One can make all the milk you will need. This is how moms can feed twins so successfully!

Lastly, there are times when I actually recommend only feeding on one breast at a feeding. In the first week or two of your baby’s life, when your breasts are still full and engorged, it may be preferable to stick to one side per feeding. The reason for this has to do with something called Hindmilk and Foremilk. Foremilk is the watery, low fat, low calorie milk (like skim milk) that is initially expressed when your baby starts to eat. As the feeding continues, what come next is the Hindmilk (the cream), higher fat and higher calorie milk. The fuller your breasts are, the more Foremilk they have.

During the engorgement period it may be more preferable for your baby to alternate breasts at each feeding, sticking to one side at a time and receiving as much Hindmilk as possible.

There is more than enough milk for your baby in just one side at that time

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