Supporting Breastfeeding

La Leche League Canada

Newborn Feeding Patterns

on August 19, 2013


How often should a baby breastfeed?

Babies breastfeed frequently, often every one-and-a-half to three hours. Time feeds from the start of one feed to the start of the next. Expect an average of eight to twelve feeds in 24 hours.

How will I know my baby wants to breastfeed?

Watch your baby. Look for smacking lips, sucking movements, bringing her hand to her mouth and bobbing around with her face. Crying is a late hunger cue. Your baby will latch and feed better if you get ready to feed her when she begins to give you the first hunger cues.




Do babies have a regular feeding pattern right from birth?

No. In the first 24 hours, healthy babies can have a wide variety of patterns but a common one is to suckle at the breast eagerly in the first hour or two and then have a sleepy phase with very little suckling. This initial sleepy phase is followed by an active phase where they may want to suckle very frequently for 3-5 hours. This cluster feeding often happens after 20 hours, or on the second night of life. It is normal not to get much sleep that second night! Newborn babies generally have nursing sessions at least 8 times in 24 hours starting on the second day. The timing of these sessions is very individual and the spacing between feeds is variable – babies do not feed by the clock.

If I don’t hear swallowing in the first few days is the baby getting anything?

In the early days, when the baby is getting colostrum, many mothers don’t hear swallows. This doesn’t mean that your baby is not getting milk. Often you will be able to see swallows as your baby’s jaw drops closer down to his chest for an instant. It is this drop in the chin that tells you that colostrum is going into his mouth; it may look like his suck is deeper and longer. Often babies then rest for a couple of seconds before continuing a pattern of little sucks-dropped jaw-pause. It is important for the baby to be latched on to the breast deeply and effectively so he can get all the colostrum he needs.

What is the most important thing I can do to ensure a good milk supply?

Allowing your baby to suckle often and long enough to remove milk are the best ways to establish a good milk supply. Helping your baby obtain a deep mouthful of breast is also important. For more detailed information, contact a local Leader to get a copy of the information sheet: Establishing Your Milk Supply.

What is colostrum?

Colostrum is the ‘first milk’ produced by your breasts, starting during pregnancy. It is a concentrated form of “mature milk”, which is very high in protein, antibodies and other protective components that are important for your newborn. It is thicker than mature milk and often has a yellowish colour to it. It is produced in small amounts (10-100 ml/24 hours), which is perfect for your newborn’s tiny tummy. The smaller volumes also give your baby a chance to learn to nurse without being overwhelmed by a large flow of milk in the first few days. These smaller feedings encourage your baby to go back to the breast often in the first few days. This frequent stimulation is what increases your milk production – a lovely and effective feedback loop! *

For more information, read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.



If you need more information or have a breastfeeding problem or concern, you are strongly encouraged to talk directly to a La Leche League Leader.  In Canada, Leaders can be located by clicking  or  Internationally



3 responses to “Newborn Feeding Patterns

  1. […] that they are unhappy or hurt or scared or lonely. Or hungry, of course, but crying is considered a late sign of hunger – usually the baby gives other indications first, such as sucking on his hands or […]

  2. […] will be easier to wake him to feed if you see some feeding cues (Read more here).  If he’s sleeping and you try to lift his arm and it drops like a rock when you let it go, […]

  3. […] as often as your baby indicates the need; this is called cue feeding.  Some cues include licking lips, restlessness, rooting (turning head towards breast) or mouthing […]

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