Baby feeds too often

My Baby Wants to Breastfeed All the Time! Is This Normal?

Frequent Feeds Are Very Common!

In the first few days after birth, it is very common for newborns to feed constantly, probably around 12 or more times per 24 hours. Newborn babies drink very small amounts frequently in the first 1-2 days.

Most newborn babies only drink about a teaspoon (5-7ml) of colostrum at each feed on day one. This is just perfect as their tummy is about the size of a cherry and holds about 7mls at each feed on day one! Perfectly designed!

By day two you start to make a little bit more colostrum at each feed and this gradual increase in milk each day stretches bub’s tummy allowing them to drink more.

Colostrum is a sugary delicious drink but it is not jam-packed with fat at this stage, which means baby needs to keep feeding very often to stay full up.

Remember, every time your baby feeds it helps your breasts build your milk supply in the first month. As your milk increases in volume, from around day 3 onwards, you will notice your baby starts to have longer sleep periods of around 1. 5 – 3 hours mostly.

During the first month, newborn babies need to feed on average 8 – 12 times every 24 hours to ensure they are getting enough milk and that you stimulate the breasts enough to keep building your milk supply. One you have established a good milk supply in the first month you may find that your baby changes their feeding pattern again. Many mums report this happens around 6-8 weeks after birth.

After this first month, research has shown us that babies will breastfeed anywhere from 4-13 times every 24 hours, but most babies still feed on average 10-11 feeds every day.

Each mum and baby’s breastfeeding pattern is different and this is perfectly normal. It is just down to the levels of fat in your milk (and fat levels change throughout the day) and the amount of milk your breast can hold at each feed, as well as how your baby is feeling.

Babies Find Breastfeeding Relaxing

Most babies find breastfeeding very comforting and, just like if we feel upset a hug can do wonders. Likewise, a short extra breastfeed does the same for calming our babies!

Do not compare yourself with another mum and baby’s feeding pattern. It will most likely be completely different from yours. Trying to “force” your baby into strict routines often brings with it tears and stress for mum and bub!

There are, of course, some mums who say that a routine was the best thing for their baby. But these babies are probably the very small percentage of babies who naturally feed every 4-5 hours and would’ve gotten themselves into a strict schedule anyway!

For most babies, a strict routine does not work! Try and go with the flow, listen to your baby’s cues for when they would like a feed and feed them. Just like us, they will not stick to the same “routine” every day.

I bet you didn’t have the same things to eat, in the same quantity, at the same time, with the same glasses of water, cups of tea or snacks as you have today! So why do we think this is normal for our babies?!

Cluster Feeds Continue After the First Few Days

Most mums report that their baby feeds frequently and is unsettled more so during the evening hours, most commonly between 6 – 10pm. Mums often say that their baby wants to be held constantly and feed “all the time” and that baby cries when put down in their cot.

This is a very normal and common behaviour for babies who are otherwise content during other parts of the day, feeding and gaining weight well and are generally healthy.

Babies do have these periods of cluster feeding, often most present between 2 and 9 weeks of age, but of course some babies will have these periods for several more weeks and still be totally healthy.

Researchers think it is a developmental stage that all babies naturally need to go through. There are a huge number of processes going on in a baby’s brain in the first year. Babies can easily get overwhelmed or dysregulated in the first few months in particular.

Babies who are overtired or overwhelmed, find it hard to calm down by themselves in the first few months of life and need someone to help them. And what better way to be calmed than having a breastfeed, which of course is not just food, but also a pain reliever and a happy hormone giver!

Also, being held and rocked allows baby to feel safe and warm, like being back in the womb. So, it makes sense that they need to be held and fed so much in the evenings after a big day in the big wide world!

Normal Can Still Be Tiring!

Even though this is normal, it doesn’t stop it being exhausting. So, it’s important to note how you are feeling and coping.

Some of us have another person around to help us out, whilst other new mums have to manage alone during the cluster feeds. Regardless of your situation, it is important to realise that cluster feeding is normal.

If you are responding to your baby by holding them and feeding them, yet they are still crying in-between feeds you are not causing harm to your baby, you are still showing them love and they will calm when they are able to.

The other thing to remind yourself is that this is temporary. It is important to not place any demands on yourself during these times. Try preparing dinner at times in the day when baby is sleeping well and just re heat and eat when you can during the cluster breastfeeds!

If you have support, share the holding and rocking of baby with another person to give you a break. If you do not have supports around at that time, listen to your instincts; if you are starting to feel like it is all too much and you feel worried that you are not coping, place your baby safely in their bassinet and walk away to calm down for a few minutes, before coming back to hold baby again.

You could also try knocking on the door of your neighbour, who you know and trust, and asking them to hold your baby for 15 mins or so to give you a break.

Most people will understand and, if they have children, they will have gone through the same themselves. Doing this will not harm your baby, but, will give you time to relax a little and recharge.

If you are finding that you are not coping during other parts of the day then it is important to talk with your GP or contact PANDA  for some extra help and support.

If you are concerned that your baby’s crying seems abnormal and you are worried if your baby may be unwell. Please get first line advice from these helplines (below). They will be able to give you support and further guidance:

Health Direct helpline (covers all of Australia) 1800 882 436

Maternal and Child Health Nurse 24-hour helpline on 13 22 29 (if you are in the state of Victoria)

Other Things Which Can Help to Relax Babies During Cluster Feeding Times

Skin to skin contact

Having a bath with your baby – only do this if you have another person to help you and baby in and out of the bath and keep you both safe.

“Rocking your pelvis like Elvis” – Whilst holding your baby, try some rocking and swaying moves whilst holding baby either upright, over your arm like superman or in a cradle hold. Each baby will be different in the positions they prefer. You Maternal and Child Health nurse can show you positions for holding and calming babies.

Carrying your baby in a sling. This keeps baby nice and close and creates a womb like environment.

As you rock your baby make a loud “shuuusssshhhh” noise. This is actually calming for babies as it mimics the sounds of being inside the womb.

Try taking 5 deep breaths with your eyes closed before breastfeeding baby to ensure you are relaxed and not tense.

Make sure you get extra sleep in the day time, even if you don’t feel like it make sure you lay down in a darkened, quiet room to rest your body and brain. Over the next few days you’ll soon be drifting off to la la land easily.

Lastly, remember that you cannot spoil a baby by holding them too much. All the information about spoiling babies came out of textbooks written in the early 1900’s!

We have known for years and years that holding and listening to your baby’s needs is the best thing to do, yet we still hear this very bad advice! So listen to your gut instinct and cuddle, love and feed your baby as they need it. This phase will pass and get easier over the next few weeks.

For more information head over to our Medela Australia Facebook page.

Do you ever feel like your baby wants to feed all the time, especially at certain times during the day? Let’s have a chat and support each other!

Frequent nursing • KellyMom.


Image credit: Jerry Bunkers on flickr

Both of my children seemed to spend the first 6 weeks or so in a constant growth spurt. If your child is doing the same, then hang in there… things almost always start to calm down somewhere between 6 and 8 weeks. With my second I figured that the early weeks would be easier since we already had one child, but I quickly found out that this just isn’t the case. We were still adjusting to a change in family size (and the older child is having to adjust too – not just two adults), and our new baby was having to adjust to life outside of mom. After years of talking to mothers with new babies, I’ve discovered that the first 6-8 weeks with a new baby tends to be a combination of magic, exhaustion, and stress for any family – no matter how many children you have.

Tips for coping with frequent nursing

First of all, do know that frequent nursing is normal and expected in the early months – most newborns need to nurse at least 8 – 12 times per day. Frequent nursing is also needed — to avoid/reduce engorgement in the early days, to nourish and grow a baby who has a stomach the size of his fist but who needs to double his weight within 5-6 months, to establish a good milk supply for mom, and to help a baby who has been cradled close and warm inside mom for 9 months adjust to life in the outside world. Frequent nursing may sometimes be a warning sign of inefficient milk transfer or low milk supply, but if baby has good diaper output, is gaining well and is generally happy and healthy, then the frequent nursing is unlikely to be a sign of a problem.


Remember that nursing is not just about food – it’s also warmth, closeness, reassurance, comfort, healing, love… Nursing has been shown to reduce stress and pain in baby, too. If you’re feeling that baby shouldn’t be hungry again so soon – remember that it’s sometimes Mom that baby needs just as much as the milk.

Fine-tune breastfeeding

If baby seems to be nursing all the time, you first want to make sure that breastfeeding is working well. Problems with latching can result in frequent nursing if baby is not transferring milk efficiently. If baby’s latch is shallow, it can be like when you’re drinking from a straw and pinch the straw mostly shut – baby is still getting milk but it takes a loooong time at the breast to get enough. Often, even minor changes in latch can help a lot. Here’s more on latching. If you feel that breastfeeding is not working as well as it should, do your best to get some local help – evaluating and fixing latch problems over the phone or online is difficult. Using breast massage and breast compression can also be helpful at times for babies who are frequent nursers.

Adjust your expectations

In the early weeks of breastfeeding, it really helped me to plan my day with the expectation that I would be nursing most of the time. Once I considered frequent nursing to be the norm rather than a problem, it made my life much easier.

Many books, magazine articles, friends and other products of our modern culture suggest to us that we will be able to go on with “life as usual” after baby is born – that we can and should “train” baby to conform to an adult routine. But our lives do change greatly with the birth of a new baby, and urging baby to conform to our pre-baby routines can come at great cost to both baby and parents. Routinely delaying nursing when baby cues a need to eat can harm milk supply, affect baby’s weight gain, and is very stressful to both mom and baby. It is developmentally appropriate for young babies to nurse frequently. By letting baby stretch out nursing frequency on his own (and it will happen with time) – you are preserving your nursing relationship and meeting baby’s physical and emotional needs.

The first 6-8 weeks are a time when you are building your milk supply and you and baby are getting used to each other and learning about nursing. After the first 6-12 weeks, most babies are much more settled and move toward a more predictable routine. Nursing sessions do not take as much time, either, as baby becomes more efficient at nursing. Nursing will not always take this much time – soon nursing will be much quicker and easier, and you will have gotten past “boot camp” to the easy phase of nursing.

Set priorities

Will the dishes be unhappy and depressed if you neglect them for a few months? You’re growing and building a relationship with your children – the dishes and housework can wait when your child needs time and attention.

Make a list of the things you’d like to get done each week, and prioritize them. For the things that absolutely need to get done, see if you can find shortcuts and/or someone else who can do the job. In the early weeks, if a friend or family member asks if they can help, take them up on it – see if someone can put a load of clothes on, or wash the dishes, or vacuum the floor while you nurse baby. Some families decide that it’s worth the money to get a cleaning service to come in every couple of weeks to do the heavy cleaning. Can an older neighborhood child or a friend come over to entertain your older children while you nap with baby? Can Dad make sandwiches or cut up vegetables/fruit so you have food easily available when baby is nursing often? Be creative, and don’t be afraid to let the smaller things slide. You’ll have plenty of time for them later – the “in arms” phase of baby’s life is so short, even though it might feel like forever when you’re in the middle of it.

Be prepared

Put together a collection of items that you might need while you’re nursing. If you usually nurse in one particular place, you might set up a nursing area there, or if you move around you can keep your collection in a basket or other container with a handle. Some things you might want:

  • a few diapers & wipes
  • extra cloth diapers or burp rags
  • water bottle
  • snacks
  • books
  • any remote controls you might want to use
  • cordless phone (or make sure your answering machine is turned on)

Do you have a baby carrier? Are you comfortable with using it and nursing baby in it? A carrier will give you an extra hand (sometimes two) and allow you to keep nursing or holding baby while walking around doing other things.

Maximize sleep

Nap when baby naps. You’ve probably heard it a million times, but we say it because it helps! When baby goes to sleep, don’t jump up to do housework – lie down and rest and try to go to sleep. If you can’t sleep, then read a book, listen to music, watch a movie… but don’t run around the house. If you get some sleep now, you’ll have more energy to do what you need to do later.

Consider sleeping with or nearby baby so you can get more sleep. Co-sleeping (for naps, and/or during the night) is a lifesaver for many nursing moms. The closer you are to your baby, the less your sleep will be interrupted for night waking. Here are some tips on side lying nursing, and information on safely sleeping with your baby. Getting more rest can make life with baby much easier.


Do you feel trapped at home?

Many new moms feel like they’re trapped at home with a frequently nursing baby, but most young babies are incredibly easy to take out and about. It can really help to get out occasionally. Here are some tips for going out:

  • Get a baby carrier . With a carrier (and a little practice) you can nurse your baby while you walk around the park or the mall.
  • Put baby in a baby carrier or a stroller, and go for a walk.
  • Go to a movie. Most young babies simply sleep and nurse through movies. And if you’re nervous about nursing in public, a dark movie theater can be a good place to start. Go here for commentary and tips on nursing in public.
  • If you want to go out by yourself for a bit, you don’t have to leave a bottle. If your baby normally goes an hour or two between nursing sessions, then nurse baby right before you leave and plan to be back before the next nursing session. If you have a cell phone, take it with you so Dad or another caregiver can call you if the going gets rough. Even if you can only expect 20-30 minutes between nursings, go for a walk by yourself while someone watches baby. Every little bit helps, when you’re feeling “touched out. ”.

Additional Resources

  • Nursing your newborn — what to expect in the early weeks
  • Growth Spurts
  • Cluster Feeding and Fussy Evenings
  • Nursing to sleep and other comfort nursing
  • I’m worried about spoiling my baby
  • What should I know about giving my breastfed baby a pacifier?
  • My baby is fussy! Is something wrong?
  • My baby fusses or cries during nursing – what’s the problem?
  • Should baby be on a schedule?

Additional Resources at other websites

Is baby nursing too often?

  • Will I Spoil My Baby by Holding/Nursing Him So Often? FAQ from LLL

Frequent Nursing (in general)

So I Nursed Him Every 45 Minutes. Every new mom should read this article!

Touch Hunger by Linda J. Smith, IBCLC. Do you have a baby who doesn’t want to be put down? Read this!

The Human Pacifier by Lu Hanessian, from New Beginnings, Vol. 19 No. 1, January-February 2002, p. 14.

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The Science of Mother Love: Is Science Catching Up to Mother’s Wisdom? by Cori Young

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