Skip to main content

How Long Should You Breastfeed on Demand?

As a new mom, even though we have the ability to breastfeed our babies, it’s only natural to have a lot of questions about it. For the first few months, you’ve probably been told to breastfeed baby on-demand. But what does that actually mean?

It’s a frequently asked question and we’ve got some answers for you. Here’s everything you need to know about breastfeeding your baby on-demand.

What is breastfeeding on demand?

Breastfeeding “on-demand” is exactly what it sounds like – you breastfeed your baby any time they show signs that they’re hungry. It’s also sometimes called “feeding on cue” or “responsive feeding”. The concept is simple - you breastfeed your baby any time they initiate it and for however long they want to. There are no time limits or imposed schedules. You’re breastfeeding to the baby’s needs rather than to a schedule.

How often does my newborn need to breastfeed?

In the first few days to weeks of life, babies will want to breastfeed every 1 to 3 hours. This averages out to about 8 to 12 feeding sessions every 24 hours, with each session lasting anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. Newborn babies have very small stomachs. This means they can only drink a few milliliters at a time. As your baby grows, so will the size of their stomach. And soon they’ll be able to drink more and last longer between feedings.

On-demand feedings are actually very beneficial to your milk supply. Breast milk production is based on supply and demand. The more your baby drinks, the more milk your breasts will produce to meet those demands. Following your baby’s desire to eat allows your body to make enough milk for them.

The length of time between feedings is counted from the time your baby begins to nurse - not when they finish. In the beginning it may seem like all you do is nurse your baby. The newborn phase of breastfeeding is sometimes the most difficult part to get through. Just know that this feeling will pass, and soon your baby will naturally stretch the time between each feeding.

If you’re looking for help in getting your milk flowing, try Pink Stork’s Total Lactation capsules and Lactation Sweets. Both come packed with natural herbal ingredients which support breast milk production.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding on-demand?

There are quite a few benefits to breastfeeding on-demand. The first benefit we’ve already mentioned above – on-demand breastfeeding can have a positive effect on your milk supply. Your body will make milk in response to how much your baby is eating. If you’re feeding your baby based on their needs and not the clock, your milk supply will follow suit.

Another benefit of breastfeeding on-demand is it ensures your baby is getting enough nutrients and calories when they need it.  Babies are just like us when it comes to hunger and calorie intake. Some meals we eat a lot because we’re very hungry and then some meals we eat less. When you breastfeed on-demand, you’re allowing the baby to drink as much, or as little, as they need based on their hunger level.

During their first year of life, your baby will go through multiple growth spurts and their hunger may seem insatiable. Sometimes this can mean that they want to eat every hour when they’re growing. This is cluster feeding. On-demand breastfeeding allows your baby to take in the extra calories they need during a growth spurt. If you’re only allowing your baby to eat when the clock says it’s time, you’re probably setting yourself up for a fussy and very hungry baby.

Lastly, on-demand breastfeeding gives you and your baby the chance to bond. Babies crave comfort from their caregivers and breastfeeding your baby creates moments of skin-to-skin contact that strengthen the bond between you. On-demand feeding meets both your baby’s physical and emotional needs.

How long should I breastfeed on demand?

There’s really no clear-cut answer on how long you should breastfeed on-demand for. You should try to aim for at least the first 6 months of your baby’s life. It’s right around this time when babies start eating solid foods and families may want to have the baby join them during meal times. This might create the need for a little bit of a schedule.

By 3 or 4 months of age, your baby will settle into a more predictable feeding schedule of their own. When adding in solid foods a few months later, try to work within your baby’s current schedule. This will lower the chances of sleep disruptions and milk supply issues. Still offer breast milk at every meal. If they seem less interested when solid foods are on the menu, offer breast milk first before other food.

Where to get help with breastfeeding…

If you’re having any struggles with breastfeeding, know that you’re not alone. Breastfeeding may be the natural way to feed your baby, but it doesn’t come naturally to all families. Problems can pop up at any point during your breastfeeding journey and there are great organizations and people you can turn to for help.

Talk to your healthcare provider first. They can put you in contact with a local lactation consultant.

You can also find great tips and help from La Leche League International and