One of the most pressing questions new moms have about breastfeeding is whether their baby is getting enough milk. After all, unlike bottle feeding, you can’t measure how much milk is making its way into your baby’s tummy. Not knowing can be stressful, especially when you are just starting out to breastfeed.
Thankfully, there are a few key signs that can help you know your baby is getting enough milk. Here are the top three:
1. Your baby is gaining weight and growing.
Babies gain weight at different rates and it’s possible to be a small or a large baby and be totally healthy. Still, what you are looking for is a steady weight gain.
It’s normal for your baby to lose a little weight in the first week of life. This is partly due to your baby passing their first poops and losing some of the fluids they retained at birth. However, after the first week or two, your baby should start steadily gaining weight. There is range here, but most experts say babies should gain about 5.5-8.5 ounces per week.
2. You hear swallowing as your baby feeds and your breasts feel softer after feeding.
Another great sign that your baby is getting enough milk is if you can hear them swallowing as you nurse. At first your baby’s suckling will be fast and choppy, as they try to elicit your letdown reflex. Once your milk lets down (you may feel a tingling feeling when this happens), your baby’s sucking will slow down and become more rhythmic. If you listen closely, you may hear some swallowing!
In addition, your breasts will likely feel the less full after your baby feeds, especially if you were engorged or very full before feeding. On the other hand, not every mother notices this, and this becomes less pronounced as the months go on, so don’t worry if you don’t experience this.
3. Your baby is content and satisfied after feeding.
Usually when a hungry baby comes to the breast, they are alert and semi-alert, ready to feed. They may even seem agitated or cranky, if they are extra hungry. As the feed goes on, and their belly starts to fill with milk, you should notice them start to relax. Their eyes may close. If their hands were balled up in little fists, you may see their fists start to unfurl. If you lift an arm, it may drop heavily by their side.
Many babies will fall asleep after feeding and self-detach from the breast. This is usually a sign that they are getting enough milk. But if your baby falls asleep very soon after latching and is also generally having trouble nursing, this may not be a positive sign. In this case, you may need to gently coax your baby awake to finish up the feeding.
Besides these signs, there are a few others to pay attention to. Your baby should wet about 5-6 diapers a day in the first few months of breastfeeding, and should poop about 3-4 times a day for the first six weeks. Frequent feeding is also another good sign: most babies come to the breast about 8-12 times in 24 hours. This all varies from baby to baby, though, so you can speak to your pediatrician if you have any questions about your baby’s pees, poops, or feeding frequency.
Of course, if your baby is not gaining weight or shows other signs of inadequate milk intake, you should speak to your breastfeeding helper or lactation consultant as soon as possible. There is almost always a way to increase supply and make breastfeeding work, but the sooner you reach out for help, the better.
Wendy Wisner, Freelance Writer and Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)
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