We're new parents, so a lot of "simple" questions.

Our boy does a lot of non-nutritive sucking during feedings. His pattern is usually

  • 10 minute feed (or occasionally 10 minute non-nutritive sucking)
  • 10 minute non-nutritive sucking, or just having the nipple in his mouth
  • 10 minute power through sucking where he really gets his food.

Is this "normal"? Is this hurtful? The pediatrician said he should just feed for half hour, or he ends up burning more calories than he gets from the food. WE sometimes extend to 35 and he finishes all.

  • 1
    Could you please define what you think is "non-nutritive" sucking and why you believe your little one is doing so?
    – user11394
    Dec 27, 2014 at 3:03
  • You are bottle feeding, I presume? Or am I mistaken? Also, welcome! Dec 27, 2014 at 3:30
  • Welcome to the site and congtatulations! How old is your baby?
    – Stephie
    Dec 27, 2014 at 4:20
  • I believe this question could be useful. However, since "sucking" as "non-nutritive" is implied to be different than "sucking", I believe this to be currently unclear and have VTC'd. Happy to reverse if the question is made clear! Dec 27, 2014 at 4:31
  • 1
    @JeremyMiller: From my own bf days, I can assure you, there is something like non-nutritive sucking. Just thing of baby using the breast or bottle like a pacifier.
    – Stephie
    Dec 27, 2014 at 18:16

2 Answers 2


You didn't answer our questions, so I'll give a rather general answer:

For very young or premature babies, nursing can be quite exhausting. This may mean that they will actively "drink" for a short while, then take a small break ( nipple in mouth, sucking or not), then start over. Sometimes, they will even fall asleep during the meal.

For breastfed babies, this matches the maternal let-down reflex (the milk flow), which comes in "waves". Many babies will "use" the reduced flow for a break, then start sucking harder and thus trigger a new milk wave.

Remember, not all babies are created equal: My firstborn took "forever" to drink (up to 45 minutes, but then he drank "until the cup floweth over"), my second was usually done in minutes (we dubbed her "the hoover").

So what would be my advice? Relax. This is perhaps the most valuable piece of advice one can give new parents. I can't give you medical advice, but I will tell you, what I'd do (and did):

  • Take our time. If my baby needs 35 minutes, why take the bottle or the breast away after 30? Many pediatricians have a tendency to "interfere". Nursing time is a great time to relax together, to bond and to cuddle. Especially for the recuperating mother it ensures the necessary breaks. And find something to do, if necessary: read, make a phone call, close your eyes after a short night...
  • Roughly (!) monitor growth and weight gain. If baby is doing fine, she is not burning too many calories. She might be hungry sooner, she might be a bit more tired, because she took so long to nurse, but so what?
  • If she's not developing well, then I'd find a way to get more calories into her or talk to our pediatrician again.
  • Just before the questions tumble in: My answer does not depend on whether the baby drinks from a bottle or the breast. I believe the differences are not that big as far as OP's question is concerned.
    – Stephie
    Dec 27, 2014 at 20:24
  • Yeah, our kids fall asleep during the meal. Eyes closed very soon and then trying to keep them awake the rest of the time. Many burpings just for stimulation to keep them awake. No swaddling anymore - that guaranteed shuteye. They're too new to have any growth trends yet, just hoping they do well. Dec 28, 2014 at 4:06

So, answering myself in case someone else bumps into this.

We found that it was more nipple-tongue placement. As new parents, we weren't super conscious of their tongues yet. Their tongue was blocking the hole in the nipple. As we placed the bottle in and out of their mouth, occasionally we'd get tongue blockage, occasionally free flow.

Now we're aware of the tongue placement, and make sure we clear it, and reseat the nipple in case of "no bubbles in the bottle".

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