How often should my baby nurse? – Basic breastfeeding rhythms

A mother breastfeeds her 2-month-old baby girl...

A mother breastfeeds her 2-month-old baby girl at a UNICEF-supported breastfeeding counselling group in Vinzons, Camarines Norte province, the Philippines. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“On the rhythms of breastfeeding”

This is the most frequently asked question on breastfeeding forums. Every mother wants to know – “how often a child should nurse? And how often mother needs to offer the breast? I’ll briefly review the basic rules of rhythms in breastfeeding a baby.

Home Formula – nurse around naps and to soothe. I.e. nursing rhythm tied to the rhythms of naps (see the post about baby bio rhythms).  For each age there is a different characteristic of attachment, which is necessary for the child’s development.

Here are the examples of rhythms for different ages:

Newborn usually breastfeeds around naps. He sleeps a lot, stays awake for short periods of time, and relieves his needs, nurses and goes to sleep again. Sucking duration can vary from 20 to 40 minutes, sometimes less. Total, during one day and night the baby breastfeeds about 12-17 time, at this period he nurses to eat, to get full.

4-month-old baby sleeps 5 times a day, always breastfeeds before going to sleep, after sleeping, between naps and sometimes in the middle of the nap. During the day there can be 16-18 feedings, plus 5 at night, a total of 21-23 a day. Sucking duration reduced to 3-15 minutes.

7 month old baby sleeps four times a day, i.e. has 8 nursings around naps. At the age from 6 to 8 months, there is a reduced contact with the breast in the first year of life. It is due to the beginning of solid foods and start of crawling. While awake he may not require to nurse, or it can happen only 2-3 times a day. He can chew on a carrot, an apple, or even the chicken bone. He may already drink sips of water from a small glass. Next – is nursing in the evening to fall asleep, during the night – 3-4 times, and nurse before waking up. Total is about 15. Here, too, the duration of sucking will be minimal.

9-month-old baby sleeps 3 times a day, and has 6 nursings around naps.  During awake period he’ll need to latch 1-2 times. 4 times waking up with 1-2 nursings – is about 7 nursings for comfort. Then he will nurse to fall asleep, during the night 3-4 times, and again whenever he wakes up. Total: 6 + 7 + 5 = 18. The longest nursings that are associated with saturation shift to the daytime nap nursing and nursing to go to sleep for the night. The child nurses mostly when waking up or for comfort, to sooth.  The value of milk as primary food starts to decrease.

Nightly nursings – are very stable and stay unchanged up to a year. Obviously, all of the above would be characteristic for the child who sleeps at night next to his mother. If not, he will have other rhythms. But this cannot be called rhythms. This is a schedule-based model proposed by mom and pediatricians. Initially, this model has been set for children on formula.

A child of 1.5 years has one nap. If the mother is at home, there will be two nursings around this nap and 1-2 in the day for comfort.  Night – remain at around 5… But … the morning berastfeeding can turn into “long meal’ with the duration of 1-1.5 hours. Mom by then has long mastered the skill to sleep while nursing her baby and it does not cause her any discomfort or lack of sleep. Totalamount of breastfeeding for 1.5 years baby: 2 + 2 + 6 = 10 nursings.

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