In the early days of baby’s life, there can be so many unknowns. And the biggest unknown usually has to do with feeding. How can you tell if your baby is getting enough milk?
First of all, it’s good to know about a few normal things that happen in those first few days.
Don’t worry if…
your baby loses up to 10% of his birth weight during the first few days of life
Most newborns lose a little weight as they adjust to life outside the womb. Remember that they were immersed in water for 9 months, and most of the weight that they lose is water weight.
you don’t see white milk dripping from your breasts right away
You’ll produce colostrum at first (most women start producing it even before the birth). It’s highly caloric and syrup-like. It doesn’t drip, it slides. It will coat your baby’s gut and protect him from harmful bacteria. Colostrum will gradually turn into mature milk. Which might take a few days. I know some mothers who have noticed the change to be extremely gradual, taking up to one month to look completely white and drippy. All of it is good, though!
Related article: Will I still make colostrum if I am nursing my toddler?
your baby wants to nurse all. the. time.
She’s learning. She’s trying to figure out how to get the milk out. And she’s tired (birth is exhausting). But she’s not just tired from the birth. She’s tired from EVERYTHING. From the lights, the sounds, the people. She may fall asleep at the breast and get back to suckling after a power nap. That’s okay. Frequent nursing is a sign that she’s determined to figure out how to suckle and get all the calories she can.
your older baby is not pooping very much
Newborn babies poop a lot (about 3-4 times a day) but after about 6 weeks every baby is different. Some babies digest breast milk so completely that there is no by-product, and they only poop once a week!
For more information about weight gain, dirty and wet diapers, and what to expect in your breastfeeding and parenting journey, kellymom.com is an amazing website. It is jam packed full of evidence based information with studies sited in an easy to read format.
Check out this quick reference guide to help you know if your baby is getting enough milk.
Here are some very good signs to look for
Meconium is out and baby is peeing and pooing
On day one the colostrum will help the baby pass his first poop. It will be meconium, a thick, tarry like substance. It will slowly change from dark and thick to thin and yellow over the next couple of days. Around day 4 look for 3-4 poops per day and 5-6 pees per day.
Baby nurses frequently
If your baby is nursing AT LEAST 8-12 times in 24 hours that is a good sign.
You can hear your baby swallowing as she nurses
glug. glug. glug. You might see her temples and jaw moving, too.
Your baby is gaining weight
Baby should regain her birth weight during the first two weeks.
After the first two weeks, weight gain should about 5 oz (125 grams) per week during the first few months. Don’t weigh your baby more than once a week. There could be days that baby doesn’t gain at all because of a million reasons (pooping a lot, learning a lot, ate a lot the day before) and seeing zero weight gain could get you down.
If you are wondering about growth, be sure to look at the growth charts from the World Health Organization. Some old growth charts based on formula fed babies are still floating around out there and the curve is notably different.
Your baby seems satisfied, content, and alert
She’s ready to take on the world and happy to do it.
You have a deep down gut feeling that she is getting enough milk
Mother’s instincts are usually so accurate that it’s freaky. And you are no different. Deep down, in your heart of hearts, do you think that your baby is okay? If you’re not sure, try talking with someone who is a really good listener (no advice please!). Good listeners, ones who mirror, paraphrase, and really care, tend to open the doors for instincts to flow more freely.
Related article: Why Every Mother Deserves a Doula
Warning signs that your baby might not be getting enough milk
Baby is lethargic
Maybe she sleeps a lot and it’s very difficult to wake her, even if you rub her feet and change her diaper.
Fussy on and off the breast
Baby might cry a lot, and breastfeeding does not soothe her.
Low weight gain
Baby’s not gaining about 5 oz (125 g) each week.
You sense that something is amiss
Deep down you have a sense that your baby is not thriving as she should be.
If you think that your baby might not be getting enough milk, here are a few things you can do:
Contact a lactation consultant
International Board Certified Lactation consultants, otherwise known as IBCLCs are the most qualified. Click here for a worldwide directory. A qualified lactation consultant can check your baby’s latch while she is nursing and tell you if milk is being removed or not. She will be able to notice an improper latch or a tongue tie that might be keeping your baby from massaging the breast in the right place with the right amount of pressure.
Go to a mother’s meeting
Spending time at a La Leche Meeting or other meetings dedicated to breastfeeding mothers can help you to realize what is normal and what is not. Watch what other people are doing and feeling, get some tips, and see what an experienced breastfeeding mother thinks.
Spend a day or two mostly naked with your baby
This will stimulate oxytocin and prolactin, the two hormones that are most heavily involved in milk production. It will also give your baby unlimited access to your breasts so that she can take advantage of every minute that she is awake to practice. Remember that breastfeeding is normal, but it’s not always completely intuitive and you and baby both need practice. You need time to figure each other out.
Get practical help so you can rest and concentrate on this
How can you lie in bed doing skin-to-skin all day if you have no one to bring you food? I wrote this article about the tip the breastfeeding experts never tell us. It’s the tip that should really be first on the list: practical, basic support!
Pump and supplement with YOUR milk
Maybe you are making enough milk, but your baby just doesn’t have the skills to get to it yet. You could pump your milk so that you can feed your baby at the breast AND in another way. Some mothers use a little syringe or spoon, or a bottle (nipple confusion is a real thing, but not for every baby). If you want to supplement at the breast with your breastmilk, you could use a supplemental tube like the one in this video. Don’t be discouraged if it seems that you weren’t able to pump very much milk. Remember that babies are much more efficient at removing milk from breasts than a breast pump is.
Formula is not the enemy
If your lactation consultant or care provider suggests that you supplement your breastmilk with formula, remember that it is not the end of the world. Many babies become champion exclusive breastfeeders even if they have had supplemental milk, either from a bottle or another way. Some mothers prefer to save formula for a last resort, some mothers weigh all the pros and cons and decide that supplementing with formula is how they will mother best. It’s up to you. Remember it’s your baby, and your body.
Related article: Why I Ignored my Pediatrician’s Breastfeeding Advice
So tell us, we want to know. How did you know that your baby was getting enough milk? Or how did you know that your baby needed supplementation?
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