When you have a baby, you learn a few universal truths: You can function on less sleep than you ever though possible and you will be peed and puked on so many times that you’ll start to view bodily fluids as NBD. And, if you, like Jessie James Decker, are breastfeeding, it might seem like your baby is attached to your boob pretty much all the time.
The country singer welcomed her third child, a baby boy named Forrest, in late March and hinted in a new Instagram post that she’s been feeling a little like a human diner lately. “Is it possible for a baby to want to be on the boob 23 hours a day?” she wrote next to a photo of herself nursing Forrest.
Apparently, she’s not the only mom with this struggle. “I’m having the same issue as we speak,” one wrote in the comments. “My son used to do the same, it was exhausting and I couldn't get anything done,” another said.
How often are babies supposed to eat anyway?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends trying to exclusively breastfeed your baby for about six months and then trying to continue nursing the baby until a year or more, even as they eat solid foods. For the first few weeks, newborns will nurse every two to three hours, the Mayo Clinic explains, or between eight and 12 times a day. And you should plan on feeding them on demand (meaning whenever the heck they want).
When your baby is first born, you make a special easy-to-digest kind of milk (colostrum) that contains antibodies. But your body only makes it in small amounts, so your newborn will want to nurse often, Diane L. Spatz, Ph.D., a professor of perinatal nursing at the University of Pennsylvania and nurse researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, tells SELF. Your baby actually needs to feed a lot in order to convert that colostrum into mature milk, so it's a good thing if they nurse a lot at this point, Spatz says. However, as your baby gets older, they’ll likely nurse less often and settle into a routine.
Babies can nurse as long as 30 to 45 minutes in one go, sometimes on and off, lactation consultant Joan Younger Meek, M.D., R.D., chairwoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding, tells SELF. “They do tend to get sleepy easily and drift off to sleep and then wake up and start nursing again,” she says.
Although some people may want to get their babies on a specific "feeding schedule," that’s actually not recommended, Dr. Meek says. Instead, experts recommend feeding your baby on demand the whole time you’re nursing instead of timing feedings. But know that their feeding patterns naturally change and mellow out with time. “As babies get older, they become more efficient at nursing and they ingest more milk at each feeding in less time,” Dr. Meek says. So, they’ll tend to space out their feedings a little more on their own with time. "The best thing to do is to listen to your baby," Spatz says.
Still, if you feel like your baby has been nursing pretty much 24/7 for weeks, it’s a good idea to check in with their pediatrician.
You may want to have your child’s weight checked to make sure the constant nursing isn’t because they aren’t getting enough milk, which may mean that your latch needs some adjustment, Rebekah L. Huppert, R.N., a lactation consultant at the Mayo Clinic, tells SELF. “Some babies that seem to breastfeed continuously may do so because they are not transferring milk effectively,” Dr. Meek says. “If they aren’t getting enough milk, they can seem to be hanging out at the breast continuously, trying to extract enough milk and calories.”
But just because your baby is feeding a lot does not necessarily mean something is wrong. "Babies use the breast for many things besides eating—they nurse for comfort, closeness, connection, or to warm up,” Huppert points out. But it's definitely worth checking out to make sure everything is OK.
If your baby is feeding frequently but is overall OK, you can talk to an international board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) for some tricks on how to make things more livable, Huppert says. For instance, it may help to keep your baby close with skin-to-skin baby wearing but not actually nurse them the whole time. “This can help baby feel safe and connected to mom,” Huppert says.
And, soon enough, your baby's breastfeeding days will be over. “This too will pass," Dr. Meek says. "Hopefully mothers can take advantage of all of that holding, cuddling, and feeding while they can.”