Allow the Baby to Determine Feeding Duration

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How long should I breastfeed my baby?

Allow the Baby to Determine Feeding Duration

Every woman's body and every baby is slightly different. It is very rare for a woman to not produce enough milk, but each woman's storage capacity within each breast will be unique. Each baby will also have a unique eating speed. Some babies may eat slowly, and each nursing session may take 30-40 minutes. Other babies may eat quickly, or more frequently, and an entire nursing session may be completed in 5-10 minutes. As long as the baby is gaining weight and having dirty diapers regularly, all are fine.

Unfortunately, many women are told to feed the baby a set amount of time, such as 10 minutes on each breast. To understand why this may not work, you must understand breastmilk.

There are two main types of breastmilk: foremilk and hindmilk. Foremilk, the milk that will come out first when the baby latches on, is much more watery, and is great for quenching baby's thirst. Hindmilk has more fat and is much more opaque and white. A woman who has a large storage capacity in each breast may have much more foremilk in each breast as well. If she only lets the baby nurse ten minutes on each side, the baby may be getting mostly just foremilk. Since the milk is more watery, chances are the baby will get hungry quicker, gain weight more slowly, and have fewer bowel movements.

Rather than try to time the baby, the mother should allow the baby to nurse as long as he or she wants on one breast. When the baby lets go naturally, burp him, then offer the second breast. If the baby is still hungry, he will take it. If the baby does not take it, or does not nurse as long on that breast, then begin the next feeding session on the second breast, and keep alternating back and forth. As the mother becomes an experienced nurser, it will become more like second nature to begin breastfeeding on the fuller breast.

If you ever have reason to suspect that the baby is getting mostly foremilk due to symptoms such as
- greenish bowel movements
- slow weight gain PLUS very frequent eating (very frequent eating alone is not a symptom, it can indicate a growth spurt, a needy baby, and a host of other situations)

It may be worth trying block feeding. With block feeding, the mother will feed the baby from the same breast for an extended duration, such as 3-4 hours. This will help ensure that the baby is getting plenty of rich hindmilk.



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