How Often Should I Nurse?

The one general rule you should always follow.

One of the first questions a new mom often asks is, "How often should I nurse?"

The first general rule is to always feed a hungry baby.

How often that occurs depends on the uniqueness of each child. On average (for the first few weeks), babies signal for food every 2½-3 hours. It may be less and sometimes slightly more.

How do you measure the time between feedings?

Feedings are best measured from the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next. There are two components involved:

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  1. The time it takes for a feeding, approximately 20-30 minutes, and
  2. The total wake and sleep time, which averages 2 hours.

Add them together and you come up with your 2½ hour feeding cycle. A 3-hour routine reflects the same components but with a longer wake and sleep time.

With these recommended times, you will average between 8-10 feedings a day in the early weeks, which falls within the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Can infants adapt or learn to respond to feeding routines in the early weeks of life?

Researcher D.P. Marquis compared babies fed on a 3-hour routine, a 4-hour routine, and on demand. The study concluded that while all three groups demonstrated a considerable capacity to adapt to whatever the feeding environment required, the preferred period by all the babies, as demonstrated by their collective outcomes, was 3 hours.

Even the babies fed on-demand had a natural inclination to organize their feeding times to reflect a 3-hour routine. Babies who were fed every 4 hours, showed a preference toward 3 hours.

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One amazing aspect of this study is the year it was conducted: 1941. Here we are, more than 70 years later and the findings have been duplicated, but never repudiated.

An infant’s natural inclination is to organize his feeding into predictable cycles early in life. One reason the PDF philosophy is so successful is it supports and encourages these natural inclinations of a baby toward routine and predictable feedings.


Excerpted with permission from On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo, M.A. and Robert Bucknam, M.D., copyright Parent-Wise Solutions, Inc. You can learn more and purchase the book here.

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This post provides content and discussion related to health, wellness, and related subjects.  The words and other content provided in this blog including links, should not be considered medical advice and should not be construed as such. Any health/wellness information should not be considered an alternative or replacement for information given to you by a licensed physician. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with a licensed physician.

Sami Cone

Sami Cone

Best-Selling Author & Speaker

Sami Cone is the best-selling author of "Raising Uncommon Kids", is known as the "Frugal Mom" on Nashville's top-rated talk show "Talk of the Town" and educates over a million listeners every day on her nationally syndicated "Family Money Minute". She is proud to call Nashville home with her husband, Rick, and their two teenage children.

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