How long should a feeding last?

Kelly - posted on 12/25/2010 ( 26 moms have responded )

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My little guy is almost 3 months old and eats about every 3 hours, for about an hour at a time. During the night he sometimes goes over 5 hours without a feeding. My mom breastfed both my sister and I and seems to think that his feedings last too long. Is an hour too long for a 3 month old to be nursing? He has been at about this same schedule since a month old or so, and he is my first child so I don't know any different. I'm also curious because he is on the small side, and I'm a little worried about whether he is getting enough milk or not. He just recently started sleeping over 5 hours at night without nursing, so I'm concerned that is affecting my milk supply.

At his last dr. appt. he was 2 months and 1 week old and weighed 9 lbs. 4 oz. People tell me all the time how small he is, and my husband and I were not small babies, so I'm becoming nervous. Anyway, not to ramble, I'm just hoping for some advice. Thanks!

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Tine - posted on 01/04/2011

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Babies hould be breastfed 'on demand' - that is, you should feed him every time he asks for it, and for as long as he wants to feed. Schedules don't really work for breastfeeding, because your body produces milk in respons to how frequently your baby stimulates your breasts.

If your son is looking healthy, has normal skin tone, bright eyes, etc, and is producing about 5 or so wet nappies a day, then he is getting plently of milk and you really don't have anything to worry about at all! My daughter is tiny, although I am five foot nine and there are lots of tall people in my family, but she is totally healthy and robust.

Ignore anyone who puts doubts in your mind - your mother does NOT have the correct information. I would suggest contacting the La Leche League or the ABA if you're in Australia for some great support and correct information.

Really, though, I don't think you have a thing to worry about at all, sounds very normal and healthy to me! Your son will change his feeding habits over time, just let him be, he knows what he needs! :-) :-)

Lise - posted on 12/26/2010

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Just keep in mind that solid foods have LESS calories than your milk, so starting solids may well cause him to start losing weight...

Kirsten - posted on 01/04/2011

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I respect your decision to do what is right for your family at this time and keep the stress down. One suggestion I have is that you do not have to completely stop nursing him. I think you would be surprised to see how long your milk will last without a lot of nursing on your sons part.

Why not just nurse when you are home for a bit - this way you still have the comfort without the pressure and the best part of all is that he will get all the immune building benefits, and when he changes his eating habits and starts solids around 6 months and then hit toddlerhood you will KNOW that he is at least getting some really good nutrition. It is a big relief knowing that he is getting the good stuff - ya know? (at least that is how I always looked at it when my daughter wouldn't eat certain foods - i knew she was still be sustained by the super nutritious mommy-milk).

With the release of this stress you might find that your milk supply increases because you do not have the pressure to perform. Maybe then your nursing relationship will pick up again - who knows unless you give it a try! :)

Hopefully this helps - I just want you to know it does not have to be an all or none situation and there is no reason why you cannot simply nurse a little bit for immunity benefits and comfort.

Good Luck and I hope this is a positive turn in your relationship.

PS
Hopefully this post comes across in the loving nature it was written and not out of judgement!

Sally - posted on 01/01/2011

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Babies come in all shapes and sizes. For some to be big, others have to be small. And they don't grow in a nice neat curve. They stay steady for a while then one day none of their clothes fit anymore. Our pediatrician got concerned when our daughter dropped form the 80th to 50th percentile between checkups, but she had a growth spurt the very next week and went right back.
If he's happy and healthy and going potty enough, how big he is does NOT matter.
Solid foods are not digested as well as mommy milk. The cereal may have more calories than your milk, but not as many of them will get to him. Also, starting solids too soon can do all sorts of long term damage to developing intestines. When he is ready for cereal, he will definitely let you know. My oldest was ready at 5 months, my younger not until 9 months. Some babies (usually ones with food allergies and/or intolerances) aren't interested until over a year.
Good luck

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Kathren - posted on 01/07/2011

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my baby is now 8 months and sometimes she feed for an hour an a half until she was finished. you child will stop eating when he's full.

Tricia - posted on 01/05/2011

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my kid use to do the same thing. If you find out how to get him to gain weight, let me know...my kid is turning 5 months and in the 5th percentile in weight. 16th percentile for height.

Ruth - posted on 01/04/2011

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honey you have done what is right for you and your baby you tried your best and no one can say otherwise just enjoy lots of cuddles from now on especially sleepy cuddles they are the best good luck to you and bu and good luck to your hubby on finding work soon.

Jennifer - posted on 01/04/2011

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My daughter varies in her feeds. Sometimes its 10 minutes, sometimes over an hour. At first I was worried but the nurses just told me that as long as he is getting the wet diapers he is fine.

Kelly - posted on 01/04/2011

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Thanks Kirsten for your kindness :) You are right, and in fact I just spent a few minutes nursing him to sleep. I had just finished pumping but he was clearly wanting to nurse so I let him and now he is in dreamland. I agree with you, and as long as I have any milk at all, I will continue to nurse him at home at night, and maybe even when we are out if he is wanting it. Hopefully this will be a way to continue a nursing relationship and continue keeping milk production in place even if formula has become necessary.

Celeste - posted on 01/04/2011

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I understand that you have to do what you feel is best! Have you seen an IBCLC? She can help you evaluate what's going on.

Do you have PCOS? On BC? Those can affect milk supply.

Kelly - posted on 01/04/2011

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Thank you all for your advice and input. I took my son for his weight check yesterday and he has dropped from the 8th percentile to the 3rd. He is not getting enough milk. :( He was more than likely spending so much time nursing just trying to get enough milk to be satisfied. No wonder it took him so long, and it's making sense to me now why he had seemed like such a fussy baby. We thought it was colic, but he was hungry. :(

A day after this information, I'm still reeling and processing everything, and I'm pretty devastated that I didn't know this sooner because I feel like I have short-changed my son. The pediatrician recommended taking all the normal steps to increase my supply (mother's milk tea, fenugreek, pumping, etc.) while supplementing him with a bottle of either pumped milk or formula after I have nursed him. I appreciate that he is encouraging breastmilk, but the terrible thing is that I have to return to work tomorrow. Considering how long a feeding is, plus the time it takes to prepare and give a bottle, then the time it takes to pump and store milk, all several times a day, this will be impossible. I feel as though I have worked so hard for the past three months to do right by him, and exclusively breastfeed, and I'm ALMOST spent.

I have made the very hard choice to put him on formula as his main source of nutrition, and pumping rather than nursing, to add to the formula so that he is still getting breastmilk, but not having to spend so much time and energy trying to get it from me. I have shed many tears and run every scenario over in my head a million times since yesterday. I feel that making the effort to go the route our dr. recommended would add tremendous stress on our family in an already stressful time (my husband was laid off two days after our son was born and is still looking for work, the hard work of trying to properly feed my child when he has grown so little, and we also found out yesterday that he has a bad case of exzema). Today for the first time since he was just a couple weeks old he fell asleep on my shoulder, rocking him after a bottle of 1/2 formula, 1/2 breastmilk. He has not been able to be settled and comfortable to that extent after a nursing session with me all this time. I'm blown away at the difference in his demeanor and his comfort level now that he is being efficiently filled. I believe what several of the responses here pointed out is exactly what the issue was - he was not an efficient nurser. He had a great latch, and loved the boob, but wasn't quite efficient enough, and maybe that had an effect on my supply. It's a vicious cycle.

Anyway, I chose to post this long update on my situation (at the risk of some people disagreeing with my choice) because I hoped that if anyone else may see this who is facing the same situation I have that they will have a little more information, and hopefully will be able to figure things out before they have to make such a hard choice. I am most definitely grieving the loss of my nursing time with my son, and I hope that I can help prevent others from having to deal with that.

Ruth - posted on 01/04/2011

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wow someone with the same problem I had with my little girl, dont stress about it I had an awsome child health nurse who told me not to stress she would develop at her own rate, she 14 months old now and still feeds for an hour at a time and has just reached the 22 pound mark and is just now in a size 1 but that growth spurt has only happened recently she has been a size 000 up until about 3 weeks ago but she is a happy healthy little girl and if thats what she needs then thats what she needs and if your little one is sleeping 5 hours at his age dont worry thats great my little girl only started doing that when she was 9 months old, enjoy it.

Celeste - posted on 01/03/2011

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I agree with the others! Basically, a feeding should last when he's done. And, plus, all kids are different. I can attest to that because I nursed twins, one was an efficient nurser, 5 min tops. The other, would take a loong time to nurse (I never looked at the clock, I just knew it was longer than his brother).

It sounds like he's getting plenty of diapers, so you're doing fine!

Also, keep in mind that health is much more than weight gain. My 3 kids are all small. My twins, one was below the chart and the other was at the bottom. My daughter is in the 10th. They are healthy, and their pedi was never concerned.

Esther - posted on 01/03/2011

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We went through something similiar. After seeing several lactation consultants one referred me to a Speech Therapist/Infant Feeding Specialist. The Speech Therapist showed us some oral muscle excercises that got our daughter eating more efficiently. She had been burning more calories by eating then she was consuming at meal times so at 3 months she actually started to lose weight. After therapy she started rapidly gaining weight. Hope this helps. Good luck!

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At his age the important thing is that he gaining weight and growing, don't worry too much about the numbers. My son is a pretty aggressive nurser sometimes, many times he'll be done with a session in like 10 mins. I remember the pediatrician telling me joel should nurse for 15 mins on each side...and he'd be done with a whole feeding in less than 15 mins!
If you don't mind breastfeeding for an hour at a time, then i say it's between you and the baby. When it comes to breastfeeding it's been my experience that you should do what comes naturally to you.

[deleted account]

I wouldn't really worry about the duration of the feedings, the most important thing is that you are feeding him when HE is hungry, not when the clock says he should be. My daughter is now 6 months and is still in the lowest 25th percentile. There is no set guidelines as to how big your baby should be, the thing you need to keep track of is if he is growing at a steady rate.
While he is nursing he should be constantly sucking AND swallowing, if he is not swallowing and is just sucking he is probably just comfort nursing. In which case feel free to detach and either give him a pacifier or just let him be. If he is actually eating the whole time then don't worry, some people just eat slowly (my 26 year old sister take almost three hours to eat her meals!).
As for the sleeping five hours at night, CONGRATULATIONS! In doctor speak that is considered sleeping through the night and is something to relish in and enjoy, not be afraid of. A time to worry would be when he is sleeping 9-10 hours without wanting to feed in which case you should promptly wake him up and feed him.
I hope this was helpful, and just remember no one (mother's included) knows your baby better than you do! ;)

Kirsten - posted on 01/01/2011

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It is definitely different with every child. My daughter (who nursed for 2 1/2 years) nursed for a long time - especially the first 8 months or so. She would nurse every two hours or so and each session would last about an 1hr and a half!



I was never able to feel my let-down so I scratched it up to my milk coming out slowly. Regardless - she was always healthy, we had a great nursing relationship and I never had to supplement.



Numerous friends of mine would only have to nurse their child 5-10 minutes TOPS during each session with a two hour break in between. Just depends on mama, baby and combo of both.



Also - I would not encourage solids until 6 months because they babies body is not ready for it (read about this in Dr. Sears book). As others have mentioned solids have less nutrition than breastmilk. instead read about ways to increase your milk supply if you think it is dwindling by eating oatmeal, taking fenugrek (spelling) etc - you can find this info on Kellymom.com.





So, although your family means well - it really is just different for everyone! Good Luck - hope this helps!

Christine - posted on 01/01/2011

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I think it is dependent on your child and how effecient they are at nursing. My daughter nursed for long periods of time until I cut her down myself because she was just using me as a pacifier, not so much wanting to eat. Now my son is 6 weeks old and he started out in the hospital nursing about 30 minutes at a time, then the first 2 weeks at home he went down to 3-5 minutes at a time, which was of course a concern for me. I contacted lactation and they said I needed to be doing weight checks. I took him in when he was 3 weeks old and he has 10 pounds 7 ounces, putting him at +2 pounds since birth. Clearly he's getting enough milk, he now nurses about 5-10 minutes at a time and eats about every 3-5 hours. I think you should speak with lactation about your concerns. I personally think that if he wasn't getting enough he would want to nurse all the time. He may just be a smaller baby and there is nothing wrong with that as long as he is healthy! Best of luck!

Angela - posted on 12/26/2010

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My 2 little girls were very different when it came to breastfeeding. Bianca was the type who would feed for aaaaages - around an hour for each feed whereas Chiara from the very beginning would only feed on average 5 minutes and that's it!!! I too was concerned as i only had my first daughter to compare to and mentioned it to my Maternal Health Nurse and she wasn't concerned at all. Apparently Chiara is an efficient eater and takes all she needs in the 5 minutes whereas Bianca was more of a lazy eater...took her time to get what she wants. As long as she has wet nappies everytime you change her and s/he is a happy baby then i wouldn't worry.

Lise - posted on 12/26/2010

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Yes. My baby lost weight, and I've heard from other moms that it's not uncommon. Most foods have less calories (http://www.kellymom.com/nutrition/vitami...) or similar amounts, but it takes longer to digest table/baby food than to digest breast milk. So some babies fill up their little tummies on 14-16 calories of baby food and then skimp on the 22-calories breast milk.

My daughter was at 18.6 at 6 months, 18.0 at 7 - so we stopped solids. She bounced right back up to 18.7 at 7.5 months, and then we slowly started reintroducing solids. A lot of it depends on the food you introduce. If I was choosing between 25 ounces of breast milk, or 20 ounces of breast milk and a few ounces of another food, I'd choose the milk. ;-)

Babies also need fat in their diet, and NOTHING compares to breast milk with fat (except avocado). :)

Sarh - posted on 12/26/2010

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Lise, really? When I started Cade on solids he gained weight rapidly, now that he is 6m and refusing the solids other then big people food (he doesn't get anywhere near a handful of these foods, nothing near equaling his solid meal of baby food) he is barely gaining weight.

Kelly - posted on 12/26/2010

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He has 6-8 wet diapers a day, and they are usually pretty full, so he wets a lot! He also has from 1-4 poopy diapers a day.

I definitely feel him sucking when he nurses, and can hear him swallowing - especially at the very beginning and during let down. There are times in between let downs that I'm not sure he's swallowing a lot but he continues to suck. He does fall asleep sometimes and I try to rub or pat him to keep him awake until he is finished.

I never worried that he was getting enough based on all of that, until we noticed how small he was, and then found out that he was in the 8th percentile for weight. People's comments make me paranoid as well, about his size and because he nurses for so long. On top of that, since it's Christmas time we've been busy and hectic so I have worried that we aren't getting enough "quality nursing time", and that my supply is dwindling because of our busyness.

He goes for a weight check in a week or so. The ped told me that if he isn't staying on the curve in weight gain we will first start feeding him more often. Thankfully, he is very pro-breastfeeding! I know that he also encourages parents to start feeding rice cereal from a spoon at 4 months as well, so we will do that when the time comes. In the mean time, thank you for your comments and advice! I will be calling the lactation consultant and running all this by her as well!

Sarh - posted on 12/26/2010

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During the feeding do you hear him swallowing? My bubby is a loud eater and I can hear him swallow. Can you see or feel him suckling? If I'm not paying attention my bubby will stay latched on for an hr, but he wont be suckling. Cade has never actively nursed for longer then 20-30mins. Now at 6 months old he is only nursing for about 5-15mins. He has just gotten really good at feeding.
At about 3wks old Cade started sleeping about 5hrs a night, then at about 6-8wks old 7-9hrs and at about 3m he was sleeping anywhere from 9-12hrs. He is gaining plenty, but I also put him on rice cereal at a month old due to his reflux (food does not aid in a baby sleeping longer, Cade is a thumb sucker and self soothing is what helps them sleep longer). I'm not recommending you do so, but if your pediatrician tells you to give him cereal bottles DONT! Just make the recommended thickness for the first feeding of cereal (written on the box) and spoon feed it to him, he will get the hang of it and he is almost to the age of being able to start on solids (4-6m). You pediatrician will probably want you to start at 4 months to help with weight gain. The there will be no nipple confusion and putting cereal in a bottle is a huge chocking hazard!

He does sound a bit smaller, but if he is happy and content after feedings I wouldn't worry. How big was he at birth? Every baby is different so while you and your husband may not have been small babies that doesn't mean your son can't be a small baby. Also, if he is gaining even a very small amount of weight there tends to be no problem, it is when they loose weight or stay the absolute same! Cade has drastically slowed down in his weight gain, but also he is moving around much more now.
Good luck!

Lise - posted on 12/26/2010

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Ah, it depends. :( My daughter would nurse for 1-2 hours at a time sometimes, and then at others only 5 minutes (or less!).

How many wet diapers is he getting a day? What comes out must have come in. :)

Lauren - posted on 12/25/2010

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I think that it various between kids. My daughter was a passive nurser, so their would be times that I would nurse for an hour. She would occasionally fall asleep, so I would encourage her to wake up to try and shorten feeds. She is now 11 months old and is down to 10-20 minutes total for each nursing, which I think is great. Have you talked with your lactation consultant. Mine were wonderful and help me manage through the long feedings. I also don't think that your son would be sleeping that long if he wasn't getting enought to eat.

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