Every parent wants to do everything they can to help their child grow healthy and strong. And breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby. But it doesn’t always go smoothly, especially when you’re just starting out. So, you may wonder at some point: Is my baby getting enough breastmilk? How can I tell?
Try not to worry. We have a team of breastfeeding and lactation experts to help you and your baby work through breastfeeding challenges.
Read on to learn how to tell if baby is getting enough breastmilk, some suggestions to help make sure baby gets enough to eat, and when you should make an appointment with your baby’s doctor or a lactation consultant.
How do I know if my newborn is eating enough?
If you’re exclusively feeding your baby from the breast, rather than pumping to bottle feed, it’s hard to tell exactly how much your baby is eating. Here are six signs your baby is getting enough breastmilk.
1. Baby is feeding regularly
Babies breastfeed frequently and often in clusters. Frequent, effective feedings help your baby grow, and help ensure you have enough breastmilk for the next feeding.
During the first two months, expect your baby to nurse 10 to 12 times in a 24-hour period. In the beginning, each breastfeeding session will likely take between 20 to 45 minutes. If you are feeding your baby less than eight times a day, or if the sessions are very short or very long, you should talk to your baby’s doctor.
As your baby grows comfortable with nursing and gets a little older, they’ll be able to get what they need in a shorter amount of time – and with fewer nursing sessions.
2. Baby is swallowing during feeding
When baby first latches onto your breast, they will suck rapidly to get the milk flowing. But once things are going, the sucking will become slower and deeper as they pull the milk into their mouth and swallow.
Watch baby’s jaw for movement and listen for swallowing sounds. If you see baby’s jaw move or hear them swallowing, they’re getting at least some breastmilk.
If baby isn’t getting enough milk, their sucking may not progress to that slower, rhythmic pulling. Baby may also fall asleep at the breast, take long breaks while breastfeeding or give up within a couple minutes.
3. Baby is content and happy
If your baby seems satisfied after breastfeeding, they’re likely getting enough milk. But if they always want to nurse, it may be a sign that baby is still hungry after breastfeeding – especially if they appear sluggish or they’re losing weight.
4. Your breasts feel softer and not as full after feeding
Your breasts should feel softer at the end of a feeding. Emptying as much milk from your breasts as possible will help create more supply for the next feeding.
If you’re worried about your milk supply or that you’re not eating the right things for breastfeeding, here’s some good news: Nearly all moms produce enough breastmilk to feed baby without any major changes to their diet.
Breastfeeding can be uncomfortable at times, but it shouldn’t be painful. Pain in the breasts or nipples can be cause for concern. So if you are experiencing pain, talk to your baby’s doctor or a lactation consultant about it.
5. Baby is gaining weight as expected
It’s normal for a newborn’s weight to fluctuate during the first few days of their life. Typically, by day 10, a baby’s weight has rebounded to their birth weight. Until 6 months of age, babies usually gain between 5 and 8 ounces a week. At five months, your baby’s weight should be double what it was at birth.
6. You’re changing a lot of diapers each day
Diaper duty starts small but, before you know it, those diapers pile up.
How many dirty diapers should a newborn have per day? And what about poopy diapers? One thing that’s helpful to remember is that during their first week, your baby will have about the same number of wet and poopy diapers as the days of their life. After that, parents can expect to change eight to 10 diapers each day.
- Day 1: At least one wet and one poop
- Day 2: At least two wets and two poops
- Day 3: At least three wets and three poops
- Day 4: At least four wets and four poops (from this point, poops should be yellowish in color)
- Day 5 and beyond: At least 5-6 wets and 3-4 poops
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That’s a lot of dirty diapers! To keep baby’s skin healthy, change them as soon you can and make sure to get into all the folds of baby’s skin when cleaning out the poop.
Also pay attention to your little one’s bottom. If you notice redness, bumps or signs of severe diaper rash, talk to your baby’s doctor about what you can do.
How to help your baby feed more effectively
It’s often said that timing is everything. This is certainly true when it comes to breastfeeding sessions, as well as when to introduce bottle feeding and pacifiers.
Watch for cues that your baby is hungry
You can help make sure your baby is eating enough by looking for opportunities to breastfeed, rather than waiting until baby is upset and crying.
If your baby is hungry, they’ll let you know in a variety of ways ranging from subtle suggestions to outright demands. We talk about these in terms of early cues, mid cues and late cues.
Early hunger cues can include stirring from sleep, opening their mouth or turning their head toward your breast when you stroke the corner of their mouth.
If you don’t respond to these early cues, baby has other ways to let you know – which brings us to mid cues. Some common mid cues are stretching, becoming more physically active and bringing their hand to their mouth.
If these mid-cues don’t result in a breastfeeding session, baby will take drastic measures to let you know that they are really, really hungry. They’ll cry and howl. They’ll flail their arms and legs around. They’ll turn red from all the exertion. These are late feeding cues and at this point, baby is often too upset to eat. So, you’ll need to calm them before you can feed them.
By feeding your baby when you see an early cue, you can help keep feedings calm and effective. It’s so much easier for baby to focus on getting enough to eat if they aren’t using all their energy expressing the big emotions they’re feeling.
This poster shows what baby’s feeding cues may look like.
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Only introduce a bottle or pacifier when the time is right
Bottles and pacifiers encourage a different type of sucking than breastfeeding. So you’ll want to wait until your little one is fully comfortable with breastfeeding before introducing either.
Most babies really latch on to breastfeeding by about two to four weeks after their birth. But for some, especially those who were born early, it can be longer.
You also don’t want to wait too long for baby’s first bottle. Introducing a bottle too late can be one reason why babies refuse a bottle. A lactation consultant or your child’s doctor can help you figure out the best way to start the breast to bottle transition.
Pacifiers are great for soothing and a recommendation for safe sleep for babies, but like with the bottle, hold off until baby has gotten really good at breastfeeding – usually about a month.
Signs your baby isn’t getting enough breastmilk
Breastfeeding is a little different for every parent and baby. But there are a few signs baby may not be getting enough to eat to watch for:
- Baby is sluggish or sleeping longer than usual. This is especially something to watch for in newborns. Because they are so little, newborns need to eat every 2-4 hours.
- Feedings are too long or too short. If baby’s not getting enough milk, they may quickly give up on nursing after a couple minutes. Or, they may keep trying for over an hour.
- Latching is really painful for you or it appears that baby hasn’t latched deeply enough.
- Baby is not producing stools or their urine is not pale.
- Baby isn’t gaining weight.
What to do if baby isn’t eating enough breastmilk
If you think your baby isn’t getting enough breastmilk, get breastfeeding support from your baby’s doctor or a lactation consultant. They can help you and your baby work through latching problems, low milk supply and feeding positions, and identify any underlying problems like tongue-tie. Just like you support your baby with breastmilk, they’re here to support you!