How to Know Your Baby is Getting Enough Milk
“My breasts don’t feel as full — I wonder if I have enough milk?”
“My baby’s been fussy for the last few days. I think my milk supply is going down.”
“My mother-in-law says my baby would sleep through the night if I had enough milk.”
It is very common to worry if you have enough milk. In fact, one of the most common reasons women stop breastfeeding (or begin to give extra bottles of formula) is the belief that they don’t have enough milk. Most of the time, they actually DO have enough milk.
To avoid unnecessarily giving your baby formula, learn these “good ” (as well as the “not so good”) ways to tell your baby is getting enough milk.
Weight is an objective way to tell if your baby is getting enough milk. Compare weights taken several days apart. That way you can see if he is gaining at a rate that is usual for his age.
Babies typically lose weight for the first 3 or 4 days after they are born. After that initial loss, they should begin to gain at least of 20- 30 grams (almost 1 oz) a day.
Babies should be back to their birth weight by the time they are 10 – 14 days old. If your baby is not back to birth weight at 14 days, take your baby to your healthcare provider for help in determining if he is getting enough milk.
When babies reach 4 months of age, their expected weight gain slows down a little. From 4 months on, a breastfed baby should gain about 15 grams (½ oz.) per day. (Note: if your breastfed baby is gaining faster than this, there is no need to worry.)
2. Wet diapers
From 4 days of age and on, your baby should have heavy wet diapers. The pee should be pale yellow or almost colorless.
If your baby is not drinking enough, his urine will be dark yellow and strong smelling.
3. Bowel movements
After the 3rd day of your baby’s life, he should have at least 2 or 3 stools (larger than the size of a quarter coin) every day. If you are wondering what is normal in the first 2 or 3 days of life, see this post.
Around 2 to 4 months of age, you may see the number of bowel movements changing. Some babies continue to stool several times a day while others will have only one larger bowel movement every 5-7 days. Both can be normal patterns. (If you are still uncertain, remember, you can always check your baby’s weight.)
4. Baby’s behavior
Once your breasts have filled (this typically happens 3-5 days after birth), baby should be relaxed and content after most feeds.
If your baby still seems to want to suck, is fussy or not settling, it may mean your baby needs more milk. Try putting baby back to the breast. You can switch back and forth between breasts, several times (this is sometimes referred to as “switch nursing”.) Try breast compressions. Growth spurts do occur, but they typically last only 1 – 2 days. If the fussy behavior lasts longer than a day or two, check baby’s weight and contact your healthcare provider if you are concerned.
P.S Expecting? To help new moms get a great start with breastfeeding, we’ve created a free ebook called “5 Crucial Ways to Prepare for Breastfeeding” which you can download for free here.
Poor ways to tell if your baby is getting enough milk:
1. Length of feed
The typical length of a breastfeed varies widely between babies. We have seen well-nourished babies finish a feed within 5 minutes; others take an hour! The amount of time a baby spends at the breast does not tell you how much milk he received. (You can read more about timing breastfeeding here.)
2. Pumping your breasts to see how much milk you have.
The amount of milk you can express with a pump is not a good indicator of the amount of milk available for your baby. Your baby is much better than any pump at extracting milk from the breast.
3. How full your breasts feel
By the time your baby is 10 to 14 days old, your milk supply will have adapted to your baby’s needs. Your breasts may not feel as full. Many women worry they have “lost” their milk. This change in fullness, however, is normal and is not good way to tell if you have enough milk.
4. Weighing baby before and after a feed.
A very accurate scale is able tell you how much milk your baby drank at a particular feed. This number, however, can be misleading. Babies do not always want or need the same amount of milk at every feed. You won’t know if that particular feed was a ‘snack’ or a ‘full feeding’ for your baby.
Weighing before and after a feed is not a useful predictor of baby’s overall milk intake.
5. Offering a bottle after a breastfeed.
You may assume that if your baby is satisfied, he will not take a bottle after breastfeeding. This is not true. A baby will almost always suck on a bottle and take at least ½ oz. even if he is full.
If you still have concerns about whether your baby is getting enough milk, contact an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant or your health care provider. If your milk supply is a bit low, there are many things you can do to successfully increase it. Please see this post for evidenced based ways to increase your milk supply.
Learn more about breastfeeding a newborn in our online Simply Breastfeeding course (12 videos that teach you everything you need to know about breastfeeding).
References and More Information:
- “Average Weight Gain for Breastfed Babies.” KellyMom.com. 11 Apr. 2016. Web.
- La Leche League Canada. “How to Know Your Breastfed Baby is Getting Enough Milk” [pdf]. n.d. Web.
- Li, R., S. B. Fein, J. Chen, and L. M. Grummer-Strawn. “Why Mothers Stop Breastfeeding: Mothers’ Self-reported Reasons for Stopping During the First Year.” Pediatrics 122.Supplement (2008): S69-76.
- Newman, Jack, MD, FRCPC, and Edith Kernerman, IBCLC. “Is My Baby Getting Enough Milk?” nbci.ca International Breastfeeding Centre, 2009. Web.
- “Weight Gain and Knowing Baby Is Getting Enough Milk.” La Leche League Canada. N.p., n.d. Web.
Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.
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