Effective suckling

Watch your baby’s suckling patterns to gauge  the  quality of the feed.

A long time at the breast may not mean baby took adequate milk from the breast.

Parents become  familiar  with  whether baby ‘suckled effectively’ (in other words ‘breastfeed well’) or not.

‘Effective suckling’ or ‘breastfed well’ may be described as

  • Deep rhythmical suckles sustained for more than 3  minutes.

When you are confident that you can  see and hear baby swallowing milk, as milk is moving from the breast to baby you know baby is feeding well or effectively.

Occasions where baby has not fed so effectively, he/she may have:-

  • Achieved ‘a few suckles’ for less than 3  minutes
  • Made ‘repeated attempts’ before attaching to suckle for only a short while.

The length of time spent suckling at the breast  is not  as important as the quality (or effectiveness) of the feeding.

Babies who only mouth the nipple or ‘lick and nuzzle’ have NOT suckled to actively remove milk from the breast.  They may have lapped up a little milk but this is NOT suckling for effective feeding and can lead to ongoing  feeding problems or to mastitis.

In some instances baby may

  • Be unable to latch despite several ‘attempts to grasp the nipple’
  • Make no attempt as if ‘not interested in feeding’.

Seek professional  assistance if  your baby is not progressing each feed, to feed effectively, regardless of the length of time at the breast. A short or medium consultation in the first instance  may save in the long term.

Typically parents  state that  baby takes  an hour or more to feed at every feed. This can be  normal for newborns in the first  1 – 2 weeks. The expectation is that babies  become more and more efficient at removing milk from the breast  and feeds  take less time but  are “effective” .


10 – 20 minutes of deep rhythmical  sucking is about the average time for a good effective feeding. However a short feed of 3 – 5 minutes can also be effective and long feeds of an hour or more may be ineffective.

SO …  Watch  baby’s suckling patterns to assess feeding  quality. A good quality feed usually means an adequate volume of milk transferred from breast to baby.

This can be verified by what comes out – in amount of wet nappies over 24 hours.