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Newborn Breastfeeding How long should my baby breastfeed for?

How long should my baby breastfeed for?

Tresillian is here for you - 7 days a week. If you are having breastfeeding difficulties you can now self-refer to Tresillian services by calling our Parent’s Help Line on 1300 272 736. Call now to talk to one of our experienced nurses about which Tresillian service will best suit you.

How long should my baby breastfeed for?

  • During the feed, your baby will take little pauses between suck-swallows of milk. These little pauses are normal – there’s no need to jiggle your baby or hurry her up. As the feed moves on, your baby empties your breast and her tummy fills up, the pauses will get longer and more frequent, until baby is full of milk and the feed is over.
  • The best way to remove your baby from your breast is to wait until she comes off on her own. Generally, when babies need a break, they will stop without any help. This is the best time for burping, chatting or nappy changing.
  • If you need to remove your baby from your breast because she has fallen asleep, place a clean finger in the corner of your baby’s mouth and gums to break the suction on your nipple and breast.
  • When your baby is full and finished the feed, your nipples may appear lengthened, but should be in good condition. They definitely should not feel painful.

Signs your baby is full and satisfied

Just as babies show non-verbal cues to let you know they are hungry, they also give you cues to tell you when they are full and have had enough milk. This is really useful information because it’s often hard to know when your baby has had enough to eat.

‘I’m full now’ cues

Here are some cues she’ll show you to say, ‘I’m feeling full now’:

  • Relaxed, straight and extended arms and legs
  • Falling asleep
  • Hands no longer clenched into fists
  • Relaxed fingers and open fists
  • No longer sucking vigorously, but a series of short suck-swallows and pauses, until coming off the breast and socialising or falling asleep
  • Pushing or pulling away from your breast or the bottle
  • Arching her back away from you, or turning and pushing away from you
  • By watching for a number of these cues coming altogether, you’ll know when your baby has had enough to eat.

Practical breastfeeding information

Feeding routines

When she’s first born, your baby will feed every two to four hours, and feeds should last about 15–20 minutes. However, it’s best not to time how many breastfeeds but follow your baby’s cues.

When you breastfeed, you can’t see how much milk your baby’s receiving, so you’ll have to follow her lead and watch for her ‘I’m hungry’ and ‘I’m full now’ cues. Of course, there is no set amount of food your baby is going to take at each feed. She’s a bit like you – sometimes, she’ll feel like a huge dinner and, at other times, she’ll want just a little snack, so she’ll take varying amounts each feed time.

As for your milk supply, you’ll discover when it’s most plentiful; this is often in the morning after you’ve had a good rest. Sometimes, at this time of day, your breasts are so full that your baby may only take milk from one side, but she may like both – it’s hard to tell. It depends on how hungry she is.

Often, in the evening, your supply is a bit less, so your baby will need both breasts. Your milk supply can also be lower because you’ve had a busy day. It’s easy to forget to sit down, put your feet up, and have plenty of water, snacks and regular meals.

Whenever you breastfeed, you and your baby need to be in a comfortable place. You need to have a chair with good back support and somewhere to rest your arm while supporting your baby’s head.

Your baby needs to be snuggled close in the crook of your arm, able to attach well to your breast and, importantly, she needs to make good eye contact with you while she feeds.

While your milk supply is becoming attuned to your baby’s needs, you will feel full and uncomfortable prior to feeds. Sometimes, your breasts may leak and even spurt milk. This is known as the letdown reflex. While it may continue for a few weeks, it will settle down as your breasts adjust to your baby’s needs. If you can persevere, your breasts usually become efficient at producing just the right amount of milk and start doing the whole supply and demand thing. The whole process of establishing your milk supply usually takes around six to eight weeks, sometimes a little longer. It’s a very individual experience.

If you’re looking for someone who can assist, good sources of breastfeeding help could include your own mum, or if you have sisters or friends who breastfed successfully, they are good sources of help. They can often have had similar experiences and may be the best women to give you some helpful tips. Once again, this is a gentle reminder to allow yourself time to adjust to these physical and emotional changes.

How long should my baby breastfeed for?

Many parents are concerned their baby is receiving the right amount of breastmilk. Baby should be feeding frequently and be having lots of very wet nappies. Weight gain is also a sign and worth discussing with your local Child & Family Health Nurse. You’ll know your baby has had enough when their body is looking relaxed and contented with hands open and extended legs. They may even fall asleep at the breast.

Breastfeeding FAQ's

Some mothers are able to continue to fully or partially breastfeed their baby for many months after returning to work. It does take some pre-planning, but it’s worth the effort. Don’t be put off easily. Discussing your desire to breastfeed with your employer may help to gain some support. Start by expressing extra breastmilk and freezing it. If you haven’t been expressing, it might take a little while to build up your milk supply to be able to express more than a few milli-litres of milk each time you express. Hiring an electric breast pump may make the process easier. You may need to express at work to keep your breasts comfortable. Keep the milk refrigerated and bring it home in an insulated cool bag. Some mothers find regular expressing difficult to maintain. However, your baby can be offered an infant formula when you are at work, and still be breastfed at home. Many mothers and babies are able to continue to partially breastfeed for many months with this more flexible arrangement.

Going from being the centre of attention to having to share attention with another can be very difficult when you are 2 ½ years old (see Introduction). Organise a snack for your 2½ year old child to have while your baby is feeding. Make the snack fun by putting the food into a lunch box and adding interesting healthy foods. Place a rug on the floor so he can have a picnic. Having a special DVD or television show to put on while you feed can help keep your toddler occupied and happy. Have a special book to read or toy to play with during feeding time. This can act as a distraction and make feeding a special time. Tell your son that you will spend some time playing with him when you have put the baby down to sleep. Make sure you carry through with any promises you make to spend time with your son. Providing some structured attention with mummy or daddy can really make a difference as does encouraging extended family and friends to share some of their attention with both your son and baby.

As you have a couple of weeks until you are admitted to hospital, building up a supply of breast milk in your freezer will provide milk for your baby when you are unable to feed. In hospital, arrange ahead for your baby to room in with you (as per hospital policies to promote, protect and support breastfeeding), with the support of your partner or alternately to be brought into you at regular intervals to breastfeed. When you are being admitted talk to the nurses about your needs as a breastfeeding mother. You may need to ask for assistance to sit up to breastfeed or to express when you have returned from the operation. At home, your baby may be a little fussy or even refuse the breast when they are reintroduced to the breast. This may be a reaction to the emotional and physical separation of mother and baby and if the baby needed to be temporarily offered milk feeds from a bottle. Gently persist in offering the breast, as it may take a little while before baby settles back into a good feeding pattern.

Our nurses and paediatricians are committed to supporting breastfeeding if this is the mother’s chosen method of feeding her baby. Breastfeeding encouragement, education and support is provided to mothers striving to overcome difficulties breastfeeding. However, if a mother makes the decision to wean this will be respected and supported. If a mother chooses to give her baby an infant formula or has to wean for whatever reason, the nurses will support and help the mother to ensure that infant feeding is an important and pleasurable experience for both her and the baby.

Please refer to detailed information here from Commonwealth Department of Health. Copy and paste this link into your browser.

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