How Long Should a Breastfeeding Session Last?

Knowing how long a breastfeeding session should last depends on several factors:  the age of your baby, the size of your baby, number of times your baby feeds per day, the time of day and your baby’s breastfeeding “style.”  Breastfeeding sessions generally take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on all of these elements.  Here are some tips to keep in mind when determining how long should a breastfeeding session last:

  • Newborns feed very differently than older babies so the length of a breastfeeding session will vary based on your baby’s age.  A newborn may feed several times an hour or every hour for short periods of time.  Newborns tend to be very sleepy so they may feed for as little as 5 minutes and then fall asleep at the breast.  This may mean shorter, more frequent feedings.  As your baby gets older, he will likely progress to longer breastfeeding sessions less times a day.
  • How Long Should a Breastfeeding Session Last?After one month, babies usually consume 19 to 30 oz. per day, with the average being 25 oz.  Therefore, if your baby is drinking less per feeding, you may have shorter breastfeeding sessions more times daily.  However, some babies continue to “snack” feed often throughout the day.
  • When your baby starts solids at six months of age, breast milk consumption usually drops.  You may only feed four or five times a day because your baby is filling up on solids. Breast milk is still important for your baby’s growth and development, however, so weaning at this time is not recommended.
  • As babies become more aware of their surroundings, they can often be distracted during feedings, which can cause them to take longer than usual.  It is best to create a distraction free environment for feedings whenever possible.  This includes turning off music and the television, not having conversations and perhaps diming the lights to make your session calm and soothing for your baby.
  • Knowing the signs that your baby is full and satisfied can be helpful in determining how long should a breastfeeding session last.  When your baby slows suckling and swallowing, relaxes his body and pulls off the breast on his own, he may be done nursing.  Give him a minute to digest by placing him on your chest or burping him.  Then offer the other breast.  If he is still hungry, he will continue to nurse.
  • Most babies nurse on both breasts during a feeding.  New information about breast milk suggests that it is best for a baby to drink mostly from one breast to nurse through the foremilk and get to the hindmilk.  Then offer the other breast as a “snack” until your baby is completely satisfied.  Start on the opposite breast with the next feeding.
  • Babies tend to be fussier later in the day.  Milk supply also tends to be lower in the afternoons and evenings.  This is by design.  Allowing your baby to suckle longer at the breast will soothe him when he is fussy.  That means afternoon and evening breastfeeding sessions may go longer because it will take longer for your baby to nurse to satiate himself and he will enjoy the comfort of being at the breast.

Knowing how long should a breastfeeding session last is as individual as your baby.  Let your baby be your guide.  Well-fed babies grow steadily, have consistent wet and dirty diapers and are generally happy after feedings.  Happy Breastfeeding!