My son has had a couple of consecutive, partial feedings (he is preemie: 5 months old, 1 month adjusted). At the hospital, one partial feeding wasn't a cause for alarm and they simply attempt to feed for a certain amount of time, but then stop because he would be burning more calories than he was taking in. I don't remember what that amount of time is.

Is there a guideline or formula for the amount of time you attempt to feed? I know it's between 30-60 minutes but I don't know if it's tied to the calories in the formula (my son gets +4 calories for every 20 calories).

3 Answers 3


Hospitals have schedules to keep and nurses who must divide their attention among several babies. For our preemie we never heard about any time restriction due to calories burned. It was more try for 30 minutes and then they were sorry, but they had to attend to other patients. However, they would let us try for as long as we wanted. The only real issue was taking so long that we started to impinge on the next feeding or nap.

At home you don't need to be nearly as regimented. The important thing is getting the right calories per day. If there are times of day your baby could eat twice as much and other times he doesn't seem hungry at all, you will both be a lot happier if you adjust to meet his internal schedule.

  • A little different for us...we were the ones feeding and the nurses would stop us. But it makes sense to limit because it does affect the next feeding. Commented Dec 8, 2011 at 17:25

Our son was only 2.5 weeks early and just around 5.5 pounds when born. He has never been a fan of feeding, and especially is not a fan of bottle feeding.

We didn't want him to become a 'grazer', but we find that trying to force the feedings to much ends up creating a day that is really tough on us, and doesn't actually get a lot of formula into him. We let him take breaks of up to 10 minutes in between and if he really fights, we just let him go play and hope the next feeding is better.

The most important factor seems to be the total amount he gets during the day, and keeping the stress levels down for both you and the baby. All the timing rules and regimentation from the hospital seem to be built around the fact that the nurses need to keep on schedule, and the needs of a 2 day old being very different that a 2 week old.


I know the rule you're talking about. We've had two babies in the NICU (our son in Feb. '08 and our daughter in July '10) and both times our feeding time was restricted. I'm pretty sure the ideal time was 15 minutes, but we could go up to 30 if we HAD to. After that, the calories that they were getting were negligible to the amount they were burning.

We followed that rule pretty strictly when we initially brought them home, but once it became apparent that the rule didn't apply to us anymore we just let it go (around a month old or so). My son could polish off a bottle easily in the 15-20 minute time period, and my daughter got to where she would stop herself and would refuse anymore bottle after that.

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