Health & Nutrition, Parent Support & Resources

Breastfeeding – How Much and How Often

Every baby is different. How much and how often your baby feeds will depend on your baby’s needs. Here are a few things to know about how much and how often babies breastfeed during the first days, weeks, and months of life.

First Days

If you have questions about your baby’s growth or how much breast milk he or she is getting, talk with your child’s doctor or nurse.

  • Your newborn baby’s belly is tiny. He or she does not need a lot of milk with each feeding to be full.
  • Your baby may want to eat as often as every 1 to 3 hours. Frequent feeding helps increase your milk supply and gives your baby practice at sucking and swallowing.
  • You may be able to hear your baby sucking and swallowing the breast milk.
  • Most babies who are getting breast milk should not be fed infant formula in the first few days. If you are concerned about meeting your baby’s needs, talk to a lactation consultant, or your baby’s nurse or doctor, right away.

First Weeks and Months

  • As your baby grows, his or her belly also grows. Your baby will gradually be able to drink more breast milk at each feeding.
  • Over the first few weeks and months, the time between feedings will start to get longer— on average about every 2 to 4 hours for most exclusively breastfed babies. Some babies may feed as often as every hour at times, often called cluster feeding, or may have a longer sleep interval of 4 to 5 hours.
  • How often your baby feeds might change depending on the time of day. Some feeding sessions may be long, and others short. That is okay. Babies will generally take what they need at each feeding and stop eating when they are full. They should seem content and drowsy after feeding when they have had enough milk.
  • Your baby will breastfeed about 8 to 12 times in 24 hours.

6 to 12 Months

  • Breastfed babies’ feeding patterns (how often and how long they feed) vary and will likely change as they grow and start eating more solid foods.
  • Continue to follow your baby’s cues and breastfeed when you notice signs of hunger.
  • If your baby seems to be less interested in breastfeeding after you introduce solids, try breastfeeding first before you offer solids.
  • Your breast milk is the most important source of nutrition, even after you start feeding your baby solids.

12  to 24 Months

  • The number of times a day a toddler breastfeeds varies. Some want to breastfeed only before bed or in the morning, while others continue to drink breast milk as a bigger portion of their daily diet. Continue to follow your child’s cues to decide when he or she is hungry and wants to breastfeed.

Source: CDC

Please note, use of this material does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government, Department of Health and Human Services, or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  of FIRST 5. This content is otherwise available on the agency website for no charge.