Wondering how long to breastfeed, how often, and on which breast? Check out these newborn nursing pointers.

By Jessica Hartshorn
October 03, 2005
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Credit: Oksana Kuzmina/Shutterstock

If you're a new nursing mama, you probably have a million questions running through your mind, such as how long to breastfeed, how to know when Baby is done breastfeeding, and how often to nurse. Don't panic! These quick newborn nursing tips will put you on the right track.

How often should I breastfeed? Offer your breast whenever Baby seems hungry or cries. This might be every two hours, or even more often in the first few weeks (Baby's tummy is very tiny at birth). If a newborn is sleeping as long as four hours, and she's younger than 6 weeks old, wake her up to feed. She needs to eat or she'll get into a bad cycle, meaning she'll get so hungry that she's exhausted, and so exhausted that she can't wake to ask for food.

How long should nursing sessions last? Many new mothers may be wondering how long to breastfeed, and the answer varies. Some babies drink quickly and are done in 10 or 15 minutes. Others doze off in the middle of breastfeeding and need to be roused, extending mealtime to 40 minutes. But breastfeeding less than 10 minutes or more than 40 minutes indicates a problem; check for signs that Baby is actually getting milk, such as sucking movements and wet diapers.

Which breast should I use? It's fine to do one breast at one meal, and the other at the next. However, if your baby drains one side and is still hungry, move to the other breast. Just continue to alter the "starting" breast from meal to meal. The reason: Breast milk changes in composition as your baby drinks, being more liquid at first (the foremilk) and more fatty at the end (the hindmilk). Ideally, by draining at least one breast per feeding, Baby gets both kinds of milk, which is optimal for brain development.

How do you know when Baby is done nursing? A baby will unlatch naturally when she's finished breastfeeding. You shouldn't ever have to take your baby off your breast. Whether she falls asleep or just pulls away, she'll know when to unlatch when she's ready.

American Baby

Comments (3)

Anonymous
November 14, 2019
My baby is 6 weeks old. We've had troubles nursing since day 1. She use to want to sleep more than eat. It was literally impossible to wake her. Tickling, cool things, being naked, etc. Nothing worked. She's healthy and is gaining. However, since she wasn't eating from breast really, she is on bottles too. I'm doing both. I'll nurse her and if she still seems hungry then I'll give formula. Not a lot. She will fuss at the breast. Nurses for less than 5 mins, pulls herself off and fusses. I've pushed her head back and she gets mad. But, then she'll want to eat. I have NO clue why this is happening or how to improve it. Any suggestions or tips?
Anonymous
November 14, 2019
My baby is 6 weeks old. We've had troubles nursing since day 1. She use to want to sleep more than eat. It was literally impossible to wake her. Tickling, cool things, being naked, etc. Nothing worked. She's healthy and is gaining. However, since she wasn't eating from breast really, she is on bottles too. I'm doing both. I'll nurse her and if she still seems hungry then I'll give formula. Not a lot. She will fuss at the breast. Nurses for less than 5 mins, pulls herself off and fusses. I've pushed her head back and she gets mad. But, then she'll want to eat. I have NO clue why this is happening or how to improve it. Any suggestions or tips?
Anonymous
December 2, 2018
Quick tip for all you parents all out there: My baby never slept well (especially through the night) until I started using the website >>>>SleepBaby .org<<<< - that website has been by far one of the best things I've ever got my hands on to get him to fall asleep quickly. Best time is 45 seconds from awake to asleep! I heard about it through a kindergarten teacher who uses it to put to sleep a group of 30 children. Check it out! Sorry, you can't post links here so you'll have to turn it into a normal link. >>SleepBaby .org<< Best of luck to you and your family! :)