Changing how the world thinks about nursing

Join our Facebook group Twitter bird search box

How often should I breastfeed my baby?

This is a good question because formula companies distribute a lot of information on timing of breastfeeding that will actually undermine mothers' efforts at breastfeeding. So how best to answer this question? Let's ask the babies themselves.

Researchers looked at three different cultures where babies were fed on demand. In the Western World, the weather can be cold, we are covered up with a lot of clothing, babies cannot access their food source without a lot of maternal help. But in Papua New Guinea, babies are strapped to the mother's chest while the mom works, and babies can decide on their own when they would like to be fed. This seems to be the most authentic answer as to how often babies would like to be fed.

Researchers found that babies would like to be breastfed at least every 30 minutes while they are awake. Just a few minutes at a time until they decide the are done.

If mothers feed the baby every 2-4 hours, which is the information formula companies distribute, then mothers will develop a low milk supply and will ultimately not be able to breastfeed for very long. Frequent feedings give the babies as much as their stomachs can handle at any one time. If your milk supply slows down, you can increase it again by increasing how often you are breastfeeding. It is changeable!

Is your baby vomiting a lot? It could be because s/he is getting too much liquid in her/his stomach at any one time. Feed the baby more frequently and let the baby decide when s/he is done. This will bring you great success at breastfeeding

See the article examining three cultures in societies outside the developed world

How long should I breastfeed for?

International guidelines encourage mothers to breastfeed for at least 2 years and more if they can. In cultures relatively unaffected by Western culture, children are routinely breastfed until age 5-6 years of age.

Mothers provide their babies and children with an immune system until children can fight their own infections. Breastfeeding is important not just for nutrition, but at least as important for immunity.

Best of luck with your breastfeeding! It is the most important way to keep your baby safe and well.

Author: Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH, biography

Also see our other breastfeeding articles:

Is formula safe?

Is pumping just as good as breastfeeding directly?