Common Questions About Breastfeeding Your Newborn

Breastfeeding Schedule, On-Demand Feedings, Signs of Hunger, and More

Woman holding newborn baby
How Often Should You Breastfeed Your Newborn?. LWA/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

How Often Should You Breastfeed Your Newborn Baby?

On average, a breastfed newborn baby eats approximately every 2 to 3 hours around the clock. That's about 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period. Newborns have little stomachs and breast milk is easily digested, so feed your baby often. The recommended way to feed your breastfed baby is on demand.

Some newborns eat many times in a short period and then sleep for a little longer.

This type of feeding is called cluster or bunch feeding. Other babies are sleepy, especially in the very early days so you may need to wake your baby up to breastfeed. 

It's best to stay flexible and feed your baby whenever she appears hungry. If you breastfeed your newborn whenever she shows signs of hunger, it allows you to provides her with comfort and security while you increase your supply of breast milk to meet her nutritional needs. Then, as your baby gets older, a more routine schedule may naturally evolve. You might even get to sleep a longer at night. 

How to Tell If Your Breastfed Baby Is Hungry

Babies may not be able to use words to let you know that they're hungry, but they can tell you that it's time to eat in other ways. A newborn is ready to eat when he's:

  • Awake, alert, and active
  • Sucking on his hands
  • Moving his lips together
  • Sticking out his tongue
  • Making sounds
  • Pulling up his legs
  • Moving his head from side to side
  • Rooting
  • Putting his head on your chest while you're holding him
  • Squirming around

Your baby may show some or all of these signs of hunger. You may not notice that these are hunger cues at first, but as the days go on, you'll begin to recognize them more easily.

Should You Just Wait Until Your Baby Cries To Breastfeed?

Try to feed your baby before he starts to cry.

Crying is a late sign of hunger, and once your little one starts crying, it can be difficult to calm him down. A newborn also uses a lot of energy when he cries, and he can become tired. If this happens, he might not breastfeed as well, or he may fall asleep before the feeding is complete.

How Long Should Your Baby Breastfeed at Each Feeding?

In the beginning, nurse your baby for as long as she will stay on the breast. Continue to breastfeed until you notice the signs that your child is satisfied. Breastfeeding for longer periods of time helps your body to produce more milk since breast milk is made based on the stimulation of your breasts by the baby. The more often and the longer you breastfeed, the greater your breast milk supply will be.

At first, try to feed your newborn for approximately 10 to 15 minutes on each breast. When your baby gets older, he will be able to empty the breast faster, in about 8 minutes.

Signs That Your Baby Is Finished With a Feeding

  • He stops breastfeeding on his own and removes himself from the breast.
  • He stops sucking, and your breasts feel less full.
  • He falls asleep, and your breasts feel less full.
  • He turns away from the breast.
  • He appears content.

Should You Wake Your Baby Up to Breastfeed?

Sleepy babies can be a challenge. If you have a sleepy newborn, you may have to wake her up to breastfeed. During the newborn stage, you should wake your child if it's been 3 ½ hours since the beginning of the last feeding. And, do your best to keep your child awake and interested while you're nursing. Once your baby is a little older, you can let her sleep longer between feedings as long as she's gaining weight and growing well

Tips To Keep A Sleepy Baby Breastfeeding

  • Take advantage of alert times, even if the baby is quiet.
  • Change your baby’s diaper right before you begin to breastfeed or when switching breasts.
  • Rub your child’s feet or back to help keep him sucking at the breast.
  • Unwrap your newborn. If she's is too warm and comfortable, she may only want to sleep.
  • Wipe the baby’s face with a wet (but not cold) washcloth.
  • Burp your baby.

What If Your Baby Wants to Breastfeed Continuously?

Occasionally, it may seem like your baby wants to breastfeed all the time. An increased in appetite could be a sign of a growth spurt. During a growth spurt, your baby will nurse much more frequently. Nursing more often stimulates your body to produce more breast milk for your growing child.  So, it's important to keep putting your baby to your breast. A growth spurt usually lasts about 1 or 2 days. 

When to Call the Doctor

If, at any time, you feel that your newborn is not getting enough breast milk or is not breastfeeding well, contact your baby’s pediatrician or health care provider. The doctor can examine your baby to make sure he is gaining weight steadily. The doctor can also answer your questions and help you feel more confident and comfortable about your newborn's breastfeeding schedule.


American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

Protocol AB. ABM Clinical Protocol# 7: Model breastfeeding policy (revision 2010). Breastfeeding Medicine. 5 (4). 2010.

Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

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