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How to Know How Long to Breastfeed Your Child

Learn how to know how long you should breastfeed your child from lactation consultant Melissa K. Nagin in this Howcast video.


Gone are the days of timing each breast and how long you're feeding a baby at each breast. We used to be told, "Feed ten minutes on one side, ten minutes on the other, and then you're done." But what we have found is that, or research has found, that leaving a baby on one breast for an entire feed allows them to get the balance of the fore milk and the hind milk. The fore milk is very thin and watery, like skim milk and the longer the baby stays on that one side and the further they get to the hind milk, it changes over from, like, water to skim milk to one percent, two percent, whole, and then cream. We want them to get the hind milk, which is the cream. That's the fat. The fore milk is very high in lactose.

So we want them to get the balance of the lactose and the fat. Otherwise you can have, if you time yourself and you only give yourself a few minutes, even ten minutes on one, ten minutes on the other, you're giving that baby a lot of fore milk, a lot of lactose and that's one reason that we could have a potentially colicky breastfed baby because there's too much lactose in their system, and it's not balanced with the fat.

So we want to get that perfect balance of the two and the fat is what's best for the brain development and what holds them for long periods of time. So they will go longer. They will fill up quickly. They will go longer stretches of time between feedings and hopefully give you a good three hours before they need another feeding if we keep them on one breast for an entire feed. And then at the next feed we'll put them on the other side.

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