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Breastfeeding: concern about overfeeding

What to expect when breastfeeding, how to tell if your baby is hungry or full, and how to schedule your breastfeeds.

Many new mothers worry about overfeeding their breastfed babies. Don't worry if your baby is feeding a lot, it's normal for newborn babies to feed very often.

A newborn baby will usually breastfeed for between 10 to 40 minutes every 1.5 to 3 hours. This is because your baby’s tummy is tiny and breast milk is very easily digested.

Supply and demand

Breastfeeding works on a supply and demand system. The more your baby drinks, the more milk there will be. Unless a baby is very sleepy or ill and not feeding enough, you can trust your baby to know what they need.

Your baby will let you know when they are getting hungry, and also when they are full. You should watch your baby, not the clock. Look for those early signals that it's time to attach your baby to the breast.

Signs that your baby is hungry

Initial signs include:

  • licking lips, or making sucking motion
  • sucking on fist
  • turning towards you with their mouth open

Crying is a late sign of hunger. Try not to let it get to this stage if you can. It's much easier to feed a calm baby.

Used with kind permission of Queensland Health

Used with the kind permission of Queensland Health

Signs that your baby is full

After a good feed (20 to 40 minutes active breastfeeding), your baby will usually either:

  • self-detach from the breast
  • fall asleep at the breast

Your baby has decided not to drink any more milk for now. This is how your baby learns what being full feels like and so is unlikely to overfeed.

Timing breastfeeds

There is no need to time how long your baby feeds at each breast. Allow your baby to stay on the first breast for as long as they are feeding. Then take a break, wind baby if needed and then offer the second breast.

Some babies only take one breast per feed so not all will need feeding from the second breast. If the last feed was short, you can return your baby to the first breast.

Weight gain

It is a common concern that exclusively breastfed babies are chunky. This is usually normal and just your baby’s own growth pattern. Often these chunky babies become very lean and light when they start to crawl, walk and run.

Finding support

[HP] If you are concerned about your milk supply, your baby’s weight gain, or you're experiencing pain, seek out skilled help as early as you can.

For help with any breastfeeding problems, you can contact the following people:

  • your public health nurse
  • a breastfeeding counsellor
  • a lactation consultant

Page last reviewed: 14/11/2018
Next review due: 14/11/2021

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