Breast milk is fascinating stuff! It changes dramatically during the course of a feeding. The first milk to spurt out (foremilk) is loaded with protein and antibodies, and it has extra water to satisfy your baby’s thirst.

How Long Should Baby Nurse to Get Hindmilk?

After 10 to 15 minutes of the first milk, as the breast empties, the milk flow slows and gets richer, releasing the sweet, creamy hindmilk.

Foremilk and Hindmilk

Some experts worry that feeding a baby for 5 to 10 minutes alternating between each breast will fill the baby with the more watery foremilk and lead to more night waking. They think that the baby must get the rich hindmilk to make him sleepy (like a heavy meal makes us drowsy).

Others believe that babies drink down more milk when you’re alternating breasts during each meal. (More milk flows quickly during the first minutes of a feeding; then it slows down to a slow drip, drip, drip.)

Here is my personal recommendation: Try both ways to see what’s best for your baby.

How Long Should Newborns Nurse?

If one breast keeps him sleeping 4 hours at night, there’s no need to switch. But if he seems hungry too often or he’s gaining weight too slowly, give 5 minutes on one side and then 10-15 minutes (or even longer) on the other. That way, your baby will get the foremilk from both breasts and still get all the hindmilk from the second side. (And any hindmilk left in the breast at the end of a feeding will stay there and just boost the calories of the next meal.)

Feeding Your Baby Breastmilk vs Formula

Interestingly, babies who eat formula sleep fine, despite there being absolutely zero difference between the first gulp of milk and the last. So, probably the foremilk/hindmilk issue isn’t that important.

Are you having difficulty putting your baby to sleep before or after feedings? The SNOO Smart Sleeper is a baby bassinet that helps promote self-soothing and sleep for your baby by using white noise and motion to put your baby to sleep. You can learn more about buying a SNOO here.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.