Breastfeeding frequency

How often do babies breastfeed?

During the first year, most babies breastfeed every two to three hours with a five-hour break at night. That means they feed 7 to 10 times a day. If you have a lot of milk, your baby may only be able to handle one breast at a feed but may feed more often, about 9 to 12 times a day. If your baby feeds fewer than 7 times in 24 hours, make sure the baby is getting enough milk.

A) Describing feeding frequency

How often a baby breastfeeds (feeding frequency) is measured from the start of one feed to the start of the next. For example, a baby who feeds every three hours will feed at noon and then again at 3 in the afternoon.

B) Reasons for different feeding frequency

How many feeds a baby has in one day will vary slightly from day to day and feeding frequency is also different between babies. How often they breastfeed depends can depend on many factors:

  • How the baby is feeling
  • How much milk a mother makes
  • How much milk a mother’s breast can hold
  • How much milk the baby took in at the previous feed
  • The age of the baby
  • The time of day
  • If the baby is exclusively breastfed or is being given milk supplements

C) How often babies breastfeed

1) Normal breastfeeding frequency

During the first year, while the feeds get shorter, most babies continue to breastfeed every two to three hours with the longest break being one five-hour break at night. This works out to 7 to 10 feeds a day.

Until babies are around four months of age, many are unhappy in the evenings and feed frequently during this time. This is normal and we call this the evening fussies.

Babies may have the occasional day or two in which they suddenly feed more often. These are called frequency days.

If you have a large milk supply, your baby may only be able to handle one breast per feed. These babies tend to feed more often, about 9 to 12 times in 24 hours. On rare occasions, some of them can manage both breasts and take in a lot of milk at one feeding. These babies may feed only 6 times in 24 hours.

Babies may breastfeed a little less often toward the end of their first year if the baby is eating large amounts of solid food.

Once the baby is ready to wean, the number of daily feeds gradually drops. This is rare before one year of age unless the baby is receiving large amount of other milk or solid food.

2) When to worry

If the baby feeds fewer than 7 times in 24 hours or feeds on both breasts more than 10 times in 24 hours, it is important to ensure the baby is getting enough milk. The former might happen if a baby is a newborn and too sleepy to breastfeed effectively and the latter if the baby is not taking in enough milk and the baby is consistently hungry.