How do you know if your baby is getting enough breast milk? This is a common worry that breastfeeding mothers have. Bottles allow you to measure the exact amount of milk your baby is taking. While there may not be a visual measurement with breastfeeding, there are other ways you can tell if your baby is getting enough.
In the first few days of life, it is normal for a baby to lose up to 10% of his or her body weight. After the first few days, though, a consistent weight gain is the best way to confirm that your baby is getting enough nutrition.
Other Good Signs Include:
- The baby is breastfeeding at least every 2 to 3 hours, or 8 to 12 times a day.
- The baby is having wet (urine) diapers. After the fifth day of life, your baby should have at least 6 to 8 wet diapers each day.
- You can hear the baby swallowing while breastfeeding and you can see milk in the baby's mouth.
- Your breasts are less full and feel softer after each feeding.
- The baby appears content and sleeps between feedings.
What About Bowel Movements?
The first stool your baby will pass is called meconium. It is thick, sticky, and black or dark green in color. The baby will have at least one or two meconium stools a day for the first two days. As the meconium passes, the stool will turn greenish-yellow before it becomes a looser, mustard yellow breastfeeding stool that may or may not have milk curds called "seeds" in it.
During the first few weeks, your baby should have two or more bowel movements a day, but as your baby gets older, the stool pattern can change. Every baby is different. After about a month, it is normal for a baby to have a dirty diaper with every diaper change. It is also normal for a baby to have a bowel movement once every few days or even once a week. Breast milk is the ultimate nutrition and very easily digested, so for some babies, there is very little waste and therefore, fewer dirty diapers.
If your baby has been breastfeeding well, and then all of a sudden seems to want to nurse all the time and appears less satisfied, it may not be a problem with your milk supply. It may be a growth spurt.
All babies are unique and have growth spurts at different times. Some of the common times that newborns and infants may have a growth spurt are at approximately 10 days, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months of age. During a growth spurt, the baby will nurse more often. This usually only lasts a few days and will stimulate your body to produce more breast milk to meet your baby's growing nutritional needs.
Sleeping Through The Night
During the first two months, your baby should be eating throughout the night. After two months, some babies will begin to have longer stretches between feedings during the night. Again, every baby is different, and while some babies will sleep through the night by three months of age, others may not sleep through the night for many months. This is also true of formula-fed infants and is not an indicator that your baby is not getting enough milk.
You will see your baby's pediatrician or healthcare provider within a few days of leaving the hospital to check your baby's weight and ensure the baby is breastfeeding well. It is very important to continue to see your baby's doctor at regular intervals. The doctor will examine the baby to check for appropriate growth and development.
Notify The Baby's Doctor If:
- The baby is not breastfeeding well.
- The baby is very sleepy and does not wake up for feedings.
- The baby has pink, red, or very dark yellow concentrated urine or less than six wet diapers a day after the fifth day of life.
- The baby is crying, sucking and showing signs of hunger even with frequent feeding.
These are some signs that your baby may not be getting enough breast milk. Talk to your doctor or lactation consultant as soon as possible to have the baby examined and your breastfeeding technique checked. The sooner you get help for any difficulties that may arise, the easier it will be to correct the problems and get back on the right track.
American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother's Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Dell. New York. 2002.