In the first few weeks you may need to breastfeed your baby every 2 to 3 hours. So over a 24 hour period, your baby will feed 8 to12 times in just one day. This may seem like you are breastfeeding all day, especially when you are still learning and each feed may take up to 60 minutes. Don’t despair though, as your baby grows their stomach size will too, allowing them to take more milk each feed and they will slowly extend out their requests to feed every 3 to 4 hours. Feed your baby as frequently and as long as they want to, even at night. As your baby becomes older and more mature the feeding frequency will decrease.
Charts may be useful, however you may find to begin with it is usually easier to feed your baby on demand and forget anything about breastfeeding schedules. While you are learning, and your baby is too, you don’t want to put too much pressure on yourself to stick to a routine just yet, I’m sure that will come with time. Many full term, healthy babies know best when it comes to feeding, and they will tell you when they need to feed, how long they need to feed for, and how much they need to feed.
Regular check-ups with your local community nurse, GP or paediatrician for a weight and growth check to ensure your baby is growing and developing correctly is encouraged. Seek help and advice from your support team as soon as you feel there is a problem, early intervention always yields the best outcome.
You may notice your baby cluster feeding, in particular if they are very young or low birth weight as they will need to feed often. That means the baby feeds frequently at certain times and much less at others. Typically these episodes of cluster feeding take place in the late afternoon or early evening. This can sometimes also lead into a longer sleeping period. Cluster feeding does not indicate a lack of milk but is indeed a common feeding pattern in young or low birth weight infants. It is hard to over feed a breast fed baby as they will tend to only feed if they are hungry.
Babies may also feed more often if they are going through a growth spurt. It should not be confused with the cluster feeding of young or low birth weight infants. It can vary, but typically you can expect growth spurts when your baby is about two to three weeks, six weeks and three months. If you continue to feed on demand for a couple of days this phase will pass and the balance between supply and demand will be restored.