How long and how often should an infant be breast fed?

Newborn infants need short frequent feeds and will typically feed every 2 to 3 hours (8–12 times per 24 hours) in the early stages. This is because breast milk is easily digested to meet a baby’s continuous demands for brain and body growth and the newborn infant’s stomach is small.

An infant will be getting enough milk if they:

  • Have 6–8 wet cloth nappies or 5–6 disposable nappies per 24 hours.
  • Have soft bowel motions.
  • Generally settle after most feeds.
  • Have bright eyes and good skin tone.
  • Are gaining weight appropriate to age.

If an infant sleeps for long periods in the day it is important to wake them to feed. All infants have individual needs and a mother’s breast milk adjusts to an infant’s needs.

As breast feeding research continues breast feeding practices may change. The current recommendation is to feed a baby from one breast completely first and then offer the second breast. However, some babies will always take both breasts, some will sometimes take both, and others will only take one breast per feed. This is all normal in breast feeding and may in part be due to the individual storage capacity and production of the mother child dyad/bonding.18