Breastfeeding on Indian Time: Why breastfeeding frequency is not measured by the clock

We now understand what our grandmothers before us knew by instinct and practice: breastfeeding works best when you watch your baby for signs of hunger and satisfaction rather than timing how long your baby nurses, or using the hour on the clock as a guide for when the next feeding should be.

Sometimes moms are surprised to find that their babies need to nurse so frequently, especially in the first weeks when they may breastfeed 10 times a day or more! Well-meaning relatives and friends may ask why your newborn is eating so frequently, or even suggest you try to “stretch” feedings or limit the amount of time your baby nurses on each breast. They may have heard outdated information that feedings should be timed, or they simply may be unaware that it is normal and necessary for newborns to nurse frequently. It might help to know that under normal circumstances, babies will breastfeed when the time is right for them (whether that is 20 minutes or 3 hours since the last.) Babies truly live on “Indian time”; the hour on the clock doesn’t guide their actions.

Listening to your baby’s hunger and satisfaction cues will help guide you through your baby’s first weeks. Remember that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to breastfeeding. What works for you and your baby is right. Trust your baby, trust your body, trust yourself!

More info on breastfeeding frequency:

How Babies Eat

Cree Breastfeeding: My thoughts on the frequency and length of breastfeeding

Some commentary on “Indian time”

If you’re on “Indian time”, you’re always right on time

Facebook Page: I’m on Indian time. I will get to it at some point.


Kent JC, Mitoulas L (2006) Volume and Frequency of Breastfeedings and Fat Content of Breastmilk Throughout the Day Pediatrics 117(3):387-395

Kent JC (2007) How Breastfeeding Works Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health 52(6):564-70

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