Q: My 10-week-old son is exclusively breastfed. He nurses every 2 to 2 1/2 hours for only 5 to 10 minutes during the day. At night he will go about 5 hours the first stretch and then about every 3 hours after that for the same 5 to 10 minutes. Is this normal? Or is the breast milk not satisfying him?
A: Actually, this does sound pretty normal. Breast milk is so easily digested that it doesn’t take long for the infant’s body to process the milk. In contrast, formula is pretty rough on an infant’s system and sits in the gut for a long time. That’s why a formula-fed baby will typically go longer between meals. Just remember that breast milk is what your baby’s body is programmed to have, and that means being programmed to have it frequently.
As for the length of time he nurses, 5 to 10 minutes for an accomplished nurser (he’s had 10 weeks of experience!) is not unusual either. Just as some adults are fast eaters, while others savor every morsel, babies differ in how long they nurse as well.
The longer stretch at night is fine as well. He’s learning that night time is different from day – so he nurses more in the day and then has that long stretch at night.
With all that said, let’s look at the issue of whether your milk is “satisfying” him. That’s relatively easy to tell as well. Look for these signs:
- He’s getting bigger! His newborn clothes are probably getting noticeably small on him. Have his weight checked if you aren’t sure.
- He’s relatively content after a feeding. A hungry baby is typically very tense and then visibly relaxes during a feeding. Watch him while he nurses. Does he suck frantically for 5 minutes and then fall asleep? Or does he nurse steadily and then fall of the breast with that wonderful “drunkensailor” look?
- He’s going through diapers. What goes in, must come out – at least someof it, anyway! If he’s wetting diapers and having normal bowel movements, then he has to be getting something! By this age, he may slow down the frequency of the bowel movements, but they should still look like seedy mustard.
- Your breasts are smaller after a feeding than before. They shouldn’t hurt, either.
If these are not true, or if you think there might be a problem, it is always appropriate to check with your healthcare provider, and/or a lactation consultant (with IBCLC after her name) or La Leche League (LLL) Leader. The lactation consultant or LLL Leader can watch you nurse and make sure that your positioning is good and help you evaluate how nursing is going.
By Melissa Clark Vickers
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant
Moms & Babies Huntingdon, Tenn