Has the baby had enough milk?

How to figure if the baby’s feeding session was a success!

In this short read, we want to give you some proven tips that will help you figure out if the baby has had a good fill.

The first check is to see if actual suckling (that is, extracting colostrum or milk from your breast), not just sucking (gumming your nipple) is going on. What you need to do is watch for a strong, steady, suck-swallow-breath pattern. 

Just notice the sides of the baby’s face. You’ll spot a steady pattern in the baby's cheek, jaw, and ear. Once the milk goes into the baby’s mouth, a gulping or swallowing sound will be heard.

Verified by:
iMumz Expert Panel
Updated on:
September 30, 2022

How long is good enough?

People may have advised you to feed only 5 minutes per breast to ensure that your nipples get trained and don’t get sore. That is incorrect. Nipples get sore because of poor latching or incorrect positioning and not duration of feeding.

So instead of setting time limits on feeds, let your sweetie take his or her sweet time at the breast—which initially can be a very long time. It’s tough, we know, mum! Try to use a position that is comfortable.

Don’t be surprised if early feeds end up being marathon sessions—though the average time to complete a feeding is about 20 to 30 minutes, some newborns take up to 45 minutes.

It is advisable that mum doesn’t take the decision about when to switch breasts based on her intuition. She should wait till one breast is more than half-drained.

The ideal duration is measured by when at least one breast should be well drained at each feeding. It’s not about giving both breasts in a single feeding. That is because the composition of milk changes as the baby sucks on for a while. Then you’ll know that your baby gets the hind (or fatty) milk that comes at the end of a feeding, and not just the foremilk (essentially, the skim milk) that comes at the start.

The best way to end a feeding is to wait until your baby lets go of the nipple.

What do you do if the baby does not let go of the nipple? Just watch for the rhythmic suck-swallow pattern slowing down to four sucks per one swallow.

Often, your baby will fall asleep at the end of the first breast and either awaken to nurse from the second or sleep through until the next feeding. Start the next feeding on the breast that baby didn’t nurse on at all last time or didn’t drain thoroughly.

Forgot which breast the baby was feeding at? You can mark the unused breast with a bindi, or a safety pin. You can tuck a nursing pad or tissue in the bra cup on that side.

The pad also will absorb any leakage from the breast you’re not nursing on.

Knowing How Often to Feed

The rule of the thumb is that you need to feed at least 8 to 12 times in 24 hours (sometimes even more if the baby demands it), draining at least one breast at each feeding.

That would come to feeding the baby every 2 to 3 hours (counting from the beginning of each nursing session).

Feeding patterns differ from baby to baby

Some newborns will need to nurse more often (every 1½ to 2 hours), others a little less frequently (every 3 hours). 

If you have a more frequent feeder, you may be going from one feeding to the next with only a little more than an hour in between. We know you must be tired! The bright side to this is that your milk supply will increase with frequent feedings.