Breastfeeding works best when you feed your baby responsively. There are no limits to how often you can offer your baby your breast. In the early weeks especially, you can breastfeed your baby every time he or she wants it. A new baby is not used to feelings of hunger and will feel upset and alone if their needs are not met. They have a small tummy and can digest breastmilk quickly, so they need to feed frequently. You can breastfeed your baby to comfort them as well or help them drop off to sleep.
You can also feed your baby whenever you feel you want to, for example if you feel your breasts are becoming over full, or if you are about to do something like attend an appointment, eat a meal or have a bath and want to be sure they won’t be hungry whilst you are occupied.
Responsive breastfeeding is the best way to ensure you establish and maintain a good milk supply and will also help your breasts feel comfortable and avoid engorgement. Trying to feed to a schedule or space feeds out could result in your milk supply dropping.
Early signs of hunger include:
- moving their eyes or head from side to side
- waving or sucking fists
- making murmuring noises
Crying and distress are late signs of hunger, and it is harder to breastfeed a distressed baby, so responding to early cues will help make breastfeeding easier and calmer.
As a guide, you should expect to feed your baby at least 8 times every 24 hours, including during the night, but the pattern may be very variable, and it is common to feed more frequently.