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How long should each breastfeeding session be?

Updated: Sep 29, 2019

For lactation counselors, the length of the breastfeeding session can be an indicator of a multitude of things.

Most importantly, the length of the breastfeeding session can help the lactation counselor understand how successfully the baby is transferring milk/how much milk he/she is getting.

How long should the breastfeeding session last?

A feeding session should last ~15 minutes. This time absolutely fluctuates with each individual baby (by ~5 minutes or so is normal).

If the baby takes a significantly less time then above, he/she may be too tired/fussy or fatigued to complete a feeding. This baby may 'give up' early, indicating a milk transfer issue or latch problem.

Likewise, the baby's that take longer than the above time frame may be suckling at the breast for self soothing purposes rather than breastfeeding. This problem may be hindering mom from completing any other tasks that do not include feeding her child.

How often should my baby breastfeed?

Your baby will feed ~8-12 times in a day.

Interestingly enough, moms that successfully feed their baby 8-12 times daily feel like they have a problem with their milk supply. BUT in all actuality, they are feeding their baby the perfect amount.

If your baby is indeed feeding less that ~8-12 times daily, this indicates a problem (usually regarding poor milk transfer).

Fun Fact:

Around the world, most babies breastfeed for 140 minutes daily.

A simple way to check if your baby is getting enough milk is by adding the time of each breastfeeding session together. The total should be about 140 minutes per day. *A baby that nurses 8 times a day for ~17 minutes will get the same amount of milk as a baby feeding 12 times a day for ~12 minutes.

Studies have shown that the breastmilk consumed by infants who feed more often is higher in fat content, and therefore is more conducive to healthy growth and development.

To conclude:

If you feel as though your breastfeeding sessions are too long, too short or even too infrequent, you may need to reach out to a lactation counselor to help assess your baby's latch and ability to transfer milk. At Mamas Maternal Health, we specialize in infant nutrition and would be happy to guide you and your baby in improving the quality of your breastfeeding sessions. Check out our website to find out more!

Until next time!

Mikayla and Cassie

Mamas Maternal Health Registered Dietitians/Lactation Counselors

Reference: The Lactation Counselor Training Course Notebook (2018)., Healthy Children Project, Center for Breastfeeding

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