mom nursing her baby in the nursery
profile picture of Jeanne Cygnus, IBCLC, RLC
Jeanne Cygnus, IBCLC, RLC
Lactation Specialist

How Long Should Baby Nurse on Each Side?

Wondering if your little one is really getting their fill, or perhaps taking a tad too long? Here's the scoop.

This will vary quite a bit from baby to baby and from mom to mom. What’s important is that you let baby finish with one breast before offering the other. By letting baby control their feeds this way, they’ll feed most effectively and ensure that they’re getting just the right balance of fat and fluid—plus, it’ll help your body bring in a good milk supply.

Rather than focusing on how much time baby spends on each breast, watch what they’re doing while they’re nursing. Babies will often have periods of active sucking, followed by brief pauses or light sucking. When these pauses start stretching out and baby is no longer doing much active sucking and swallowing—or if baby comes off the breast on their own—then it’s time to offer the other breast.

Some babies, at some times, only take one breast at a feeding. As long as they’re showing signs of being full and content, this is completely fine. Other babies might want to go back and forth between the breasts several times—that’s also okay. The key is to watch baby and follow their cues.

Most young babies will take somewhere between 20 to 40 minutes to complete a feeding. If your child is feeding for much longer than this, or doesn’t appear satisfied after nursing, it’s a good idea to have their feeding evaluated by an experienced lactation consultant.

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