One of the common questions we receive on the board is one along the lines of "My 2/3/4/5 month old baby used to feed for 20/30/40 minutes and when I timed a feed the other day it was only 3/5/10 minutes! Help I'm really worried that this isn't long enough and they won't be reaching the hindmilk."
Or "My baby has started to bob off after only 5/10 minutes of feeding. He doesn't seem uncomfortable or windy but when I try and get him to go back on the breast he struggles and fights me and doesn't seem to want to continue feeding. Could he really be finished?"
Or "My baby's feeds have reduced to only 5 minutes per side. I'm really worried I must have supply problems...and I've stopped feeling 'full' and feeling 'let-down"
None of these mothers have reason to worry. The mere fact their baby's feeding has reducing is length is not a cause for concern. Feeling less 'full' or no longer leaking or no longer feeling 'let down' is something that can occur around the same time as the breasts begin to settle down after the initial engorgement has subsided and this can make a mother worry unnecessarily. Sadly this false perception of low supply can cause some mothers to supplement with formula unnecessarily.
As babies become more experienced nursers they are able to extract milk from the breast more successfully. It is possible for a baby is receive a full feed in a shockingly short time!
To know whether a baby is getting enough milk you can look at the following things:
1. Wet nappies:
Dr Jack Newman says: With six soaking wet (not just wet) diapers in a 24 hours hour period, after about 4-5 days of life, you can be reasonably sure that the baby is getting a lot of milk (if he is breastfeeding only). Unfortunately, the new super dry "disposable" diapers often do indeed feel dry even when full of urine, but when soaked with urine they are heavy. It should be obvious that this indication of milk intake does not apply if you are giving the baby extra water (which, in any case, is unnecessary for breastfed babies, and if given by bottle, may interfere with breastfeeding). The baby's urine should be almost colourless after the first few days, though occasional darker urine is not of concern.
Bowel movements are not a reliable indicator as babies older than a few weeks can happily go more than several days between BMs while others go more than once a day.
2. Your baby seems satisfied after a feeding (once you've stopped trying to get them to go back on!).
3. Your baby appears healthy - has good colour and resilient skin and is 'fillling out' and growing in length and is alert and active with good muscle tone.
4. Your baby is clearly swallowing milk. Dr Jack Newman suggests you look for a pause in the movement of the baby's chin that occurs on opening his mouth to the widest point while he sucks - this indicates swallowing. You may also be able to hear the milk going down (but hopefully not clicking or smacking sounds as that can indicate latch problems.)
A sudden decrease in nursing time could also occur if sucking has suddenly become more efficient due to a change in positioning or some change in the baby's latch-on. Some mothers who have received advice from a lactation consultant and made adjustments could notice a feeding time reduce dramatically in length as the baby is now receiving milk effectively.
However if you have other reasons to feel your baby is not feeding sufficiently e.g you are experiencing nursing strikes, your baby is not getting the usual amount of wet nappies, your instincts tell you your baby is not their usual alert self then DO contact a health professional such as a trained breastfeeding counsellor, a lactation consultant or your doctor.