How many breastfeeds?

Many new mothers wonder about how many times they should breastfeed their baby each day.

The answer is that babies vary a lot in terms of the number of breastfeeds they need in a 24-hour period. While it is common for babies to breastfeed 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period, some babies may need fewer feeds and some more. A ‘breastfeed’ could be the baby feeding from one or both breasts, or from each breast more than once. Regardless of how many feeds a baby has in a 24-hour period, what is important to know are the signs of adequate milk intake.

The only true way to know how many feeds your own individual baby needs is to feed them when they need to feed. That is, by watching out for and responding to their feeding cues. The number of feeds in a 24-hour period depends on many factors. For example:

• The age of the baby. Younger babies tend to feed more frequently than older babies.

• A mother’s breast storage volume. This is the volume of milk a mother’s breasts can hold in between feeds. A mother may have a small storage volume, which means that her baby feeds more frequently than a baby whose mother has a large storage volume. However, this is only one factor as some babies of mothers with large storage volumes still need to feed frequently.

• The weather. In hot weather a thirsty baby may want to breastfeed more frequently but for shorter periods. This means they are getting more fluid.

• Babies may need comfort, reassurance and ‘connection’ with their mother, as well as breastmilk. Breastfeeding is much more than just the transfer of food.

© Australian Breastfeeding Association, December 2019

Last reviewed: 
Dec 2019