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How do I know if my baby is getting enough breastmilk?

3 questions to ask to find out, plus tips on how to tell when your baby is hungry.

By Chris Clark, IBCLC, RCP, RMP
August 16, 2017

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Breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby, but new moms often wonder if their baby is getting enough milk from feedings. As a board-certified lactation consultant at Regions Hospital, the first thing I do when moms come to me with this concern is ask a few questions:

How often is your baby eating?

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.

In the early weeks, expect your baby to nurse 10 to 12 times in a 24-hour period. If your baby isn’t feeding at least 8 times over the course of a day, you do not see or hear swallowing during feedings, or if he seems discontent after most feedings, check in with a lactation consultant or your pediatrician. Your health plan or clinic can help you get in touch with a lactation consultant if you’re not connected to one already. They will check your baby’s weight and do a feeding evaluation to help you make sure that he is nursing well.

How many diapers are you changing?

For a newborn, the number of wet and poopy diapers should match your baby’s day of life. So on day 1, expect 1 wet and 1 poopy diaper; day 2: 2 wets and 2 poops, etc., through day 4. By day 5 and beyond, a breastfed baby should have at least 3-4 poops per day (yellow in color) and 5-6 wet diapers.

[Click on the image below to enlarge and view it in a new window]

How many diapers should you be changing? [Chart]
1 day after birth: You should be changing 1 wet diaper and 1 poopy diaper
2 days after birth: You should be changing 2 wet diapers and 2 poopy diapers
3 days after birth: You should be changing 3 wet diapers and 3 poopy diapers
4 days after birth: You should be changing 4 wet diapers and 4 poopy diapers
5+ days after birth: You should be changing at least 5-6 wet diapers per day, and at least 3-4 poopy diapers per day
Call a lactation consultant or your pediatrician if this doesn’t line up with what you’re experiencing with your baby.

How do your breasts feel?

Breastfeeding can be uncomfortable at times, but it should not be painful. Pain in the breasts or nipples can be cause for concern, and you should talk to your doctor, midwife or a lactation consultant about it. 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!

How to help your baby feed effectively

You can help make sure your baby is eating enough by looking for opportunities to breastfeed, rather than waiting until baby is hungry and crying. This poster is one of my favorite ways to help parents see their baby’s early feeding cues.

[Click on the image below to enlarge and view it in a new window]

Feeding cues, at a glance 
Early cues from your baby
These mean, “I’m hungry”
When your baby is:
•	Stirring
•	Opening their mouth
•	Turning their head, seeking, rooting
Mid cues from your baby
These mean, “I’m really hungry”
When your baby is:
•	Stretching
•	Increasing their physical movement
•	Putting their hand to their mouth
Late cues from your baby
These mean, “I’m really upset! You need to calm me first, then feed me”
When your baby is:
•	Crying
•	Making agitated body movements
•	Having their skin color turn red
To calm your baby:
Try cuddling, skin-to-skin contact on your chest, talking and stroking.
By feeding your baby when you see an early cue, you can help keep feedings calm. I also recommend avoiding the use of pacifiers in the first month.

Breastfeeding is a little different for every mom and baby. If you feel like you’re struggling, please don’t hesitate to ask for help from a lactation consultant. Just like you support your baby with breastmilk, we’re here to support you!

Are you a HealthPartners or Park Nicollet member or patient? Drop in weekly to ask a lactation consultant your questions in person.

About Chris Clark, IBCLC, RCP, RMP

Chris Clark has spent three decades helping women with breastfeeding. One of her proudest accomplishments was bringing Kangaroo Care, a method of caring for premature babies using skin-to-skin contact, to the United States when her own child was born prematurely. Chris has been involved with mother support groups, high-risk birthing centers and rural hospitals. With her help, Regions Hospital became Baby Friendly in January 2015. That’s a World Health Organization designation that recognizes hospitals offering optimal care for infant feeding and mother/baby bonding. She has a passion for developing mentoring programs to help aspiring Lactation Consultants develop their skills. Her four children and four grandchildren help keep her pretty busy, too!

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