Mommy & Baby: Nursing Questions & Answers by Kirsten Hawkins
Q. How often should I nurse a newborn infant?
A. No fewer than 8 times per day, depending on how long he gives you at night. If he can go 4 hours, you’ll probably see two feedings in between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. If you tank him up right before you go to bed, you may only have one.
Q. How often should I nurse an older baby?
A. Depending on your child’s age, you should be on a 3-4 hour routine during the day. Remember, as your child gets older, the frequency of nursing sessions will drop off, but he will be eating more at each session. If you are committed to nursing past 6 months of age, it’s not recommended that you drop below 5 feedings per day. If you believe your milk supply is waning and you don’t want to stop breastfeeding, add a feeding or two to your daily routine in order to increase your milk supply
Q. How do I drop a feeding as my baby grows?
A. The most common changes are moms who want to switch from a 3 to a 3.5 hour routine or a 3.5 to a 4 hour routine, babies who are ready to drop their middle of the night feeding, or parents who are ready to stop the late-night feeding.
Most often you’ll know when your baby is ready to switch by a change in his sleep patterns. A baby on a 3 hour routine typically takes 3 naps per day (morning, afternoon, late afternoon) and the switchover to a 3.5 hour routine will see a shortening of one of those naps or the dropping of the last nap of the day. Babies are generally ready for this switch by about 12 weeks of age.
Dropping the middle of the night feeding is most often accomplished by the baby himself between 7-14 weeks of age. You’ll know your baby is ready when he doesn’t wake you up until 6:00 a.m. or so, and you’ll probably wake in a panic that morning, realizing you weren’t beckoned in the middle of the night. He will require more food during the day from this point on, and your breasts will likely be overly full for several days, but it’s all good!
Stopping the late night feeding is typically the trickiest to do. Many parents are reluctant to drop it, thinking that if they do, their baby will wake in the middle of the night, starving. If you think he cannot drop the feeding completely, back it up in 15-minute increments until you arrive at your desired time. If his last two feedings of the day are closer than your flexible schedule says it “should be,” don’t worry. It’s a temporary fix, and that’s what flexibility is all about. The routine serves you, not the other way around!
Kirsten Hawkins is a baby and parenting expert specializing new mothers and single parent issues. For more information on how to raising healthy, happy children.