Your body is made to adjust to what your baby needs so you do not need to worry.
Is My Breastfed Baby Getting Enough Milk?
But if you feel that you need additional reassurance, there are some things that can be looked for in order to determine whether or not the baby is getting adequate amounts of milk.
Quick Things to Look for:
- Wet diapers
- Dirty diapers
- Urine color
- Weight gain
- Feeding frequency
- The feeding act itself
When looking for wet diapers, you want to make sure that you are seeing about five to six wet diapers each day. During the first few days of life however, you may only see one or two wet diapers per twenty-four hour period. This is because the baby is only getting colostrum from the breast at first.
The inspection of dirty diapers is to determine the quantity of the milk that the baby is drinking. In the beginning, typically just the first few days, the dirty diapers will have sticky black or green stools and then brown stools. After a few days have passed, the stools should be loose, yellow, and have a seedy appearance. This type of stool is referred to as milk stools.
Urine color should be pale in color. You may notice reddish or pink diapers the first few days because of the crystals that are in the urine. If this coloration continues for any longer than the first few days or is another dark color, make sure that you are consulting with your baby’s doctor. (Dr. Sears, 2013)
If your newborn drops up to nine percent of his or her birth weight, within the first few days of life, this should not alarm you, as it is normal. After that initial drop in weight, weight gain should be consistent, gaining about five ounces per week.
You also want to watch for the frequency of feedings. Breastfeeding newborns eat around eight to twelve times per twenty-four hour period. If your newborn is eating that often, it is probably safe to say that your infant is getting enough breast milk. Once the baby hits the two-month age mark, you might find that you are breastfeeding less often.
As for the actual act of breastfeeding, you want to watch and listen. The baby should be sucking deeply and then pausing every once in a while for swallowing. You might even see a little dribble of milk coming out of the corner of the mouth of the baby, which is another sign that the baby is getting milk and you have established good breast milk production.
Breast Milk Production Should Adjust to Baby’s Needs
Motherhood requires you to meet all the needs of a fragile being who can’t speak for themselves. That means providing milk and wondering if they’re receiving enough for satiety and growth. Add that to the worry that they aren’t warm enough, aren’t held enough, aren’t changed fast enough. No wonder new mothers are stressed and exhausted, right?
The good news is your baby will give you signals that they’re receiving adequate milk to feel satisfied and thrive. You just need know what to look for and where to go if you think your little one needs more nourishment than you can provide.
What Do Babies Really Need?
Newborn babies need small amounts of colostrum to fill their tiny stomachs. If it doesn’t seem like you’re producing much milk the first day or two, it’s because your milk has yet to “drop.” Once the more voluminous milk starts to flow, it will come in the perfect form to nourish your baby throughout the first year or two of life.
Yes, the composition of your milk changes over time. That’s what ensures your milk is just as nourishing when your baby is one month old as when they’re six months old or a year. Your body intuitively knows what to provide as your baby grows and will match milk production to the level of demand presented by your baby.
Every baby is a little different when it comes to breastfeeding patterns and needs. Research has shown that breastfed babies tend to consume about 25 ounces of milk per day, on average. Some will consume a bit more or less, but most will fall around that amount for the first six months of life.
When you split that daily average to cover eight or more feedings per day, you see that most babies are consuming less than five ounces at each feeding. After six months, the amount of milk consumed daily may increase slightly. It might also decrease as you start adding solid foods into your baby’s diet.
Are you wondering how you’re supposed to know how much milk your baby consumes during a breastfeeding session? The simple answer is that you won’t know unless you’re pumping and bottle feeding. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you’ll need to watch for signs that your baby is satisfied and growing at an adequate rate.
Signs Your Baby is Well Nourished
If you know what to look for, your baby will let you know that your milk production and supply is adequate. Use this list to familiarize yourself with some of the most important signs of a well-fed baby:
- Your baby is nursing at least eight times per day and doesn’t seem to have difficulty. If your baby is latching properly, swallowing easily and staying latched comfortably throughout every feeding without gastrointestinal distress or excessive crying after feedings, there are likely no difficulties that need addressed.
- Your baby is gaining weight at a healthy rate. Your pediatrician or family doctor should let you know if your baby isn’t meeting expected growth metrics, but you should also notice that your baby is growing gradually and looks healthy.
- Your baby is having six or more wet diapers each day after the fifth day of life and is producing several stools each day after the fourth or fifth day. You may not notice much urine output for a newborn, but the wet diapers should increase each day until six or more daily becomes the norm.
- Your baby is awake and shows interest in the surrounding environment. Babies do sleep a lot in the early days, but there should also be alert periods where your baby looks and moves around. They should seem satisfied and content between feedings.
If you see your baby gaining weight and developing new skills during awake times, you likely have a healthy baby who is receiving an adequate supply of nourishing breast milk. It’s still a good idea to learn the signs that a baby is not receiving enough milk just so you know what to watch out for in the months ahead.
Signs Baby Isn’t Getting Enough Breastmilk
What happens when a baby isn’t receiving an adequate supply of nourishing breast milk? The picture is often the opposite of what we just painted for the well-nourished baby, including some or all of the following signs:
- Your baby doesn’t seem interested in feeding or seems to demand excessive feedings. If your baby isn’t getting enough milk during feedings, they’re likely to demand continuous feeding. (Don’t confuse this will growth spurts!) Those demands may take the form of whining, crying and other signs of distress. If your baby is the opposite and doesn’t seem interested in feeding, you will need to seek the help of your doctor to diagnose the cause of that disinterest quickly.
- Your baby doesn’t seem alert or responsive. This goes beyond a sleepy baby who needs their rest. We’re talking about a lack of response to the surrounding environment and excessive sleeping that interferes with the baby’s feeding schedule. The lack of energy is a sign that the baby isn’t properly nourished.
- Your baby isn’t growing at the expected rate. Some breastfed babies do gain weight slower than other babies, but they should still gain steadily over time. Your pediatrician will help you determine your baby’s growth rate, but you may also know by looking at your baby that they’re not gaining at a healthy rate often referred to as failure to thrive.
- Your baby’s urine and stool output are below expectations. When enough milk isn’t going in, it will impact the amount coming back out.
You can also use your mother’s intuition or gut instinct when assessing the health and well-being of your baby. Parents often sense that something isn’t quite right before they have confirmation from a doctor, so don’t discredit your instinct. It’s always better to take your baby in for an extra well check than to overlook potential problems that can later become more severe health issues.
Is My Baby Getting Enough Breastmilk? Where to Turn for Help
You’re doing one of the best things a parent can do for their children right now: educating yourself. Understanding how much breast milk your baby needs, learning how often they should be feeding and identifying the signs of potential trouble is important. Combine what you’re learning with constant observation of your baby, and you’re likely to pinpoint trouble before it becomes a major issue for your little one. (Dr. Newman, 2015)
If you think your baby isn’t consuming enough breast milk, determine the urgency of the situation. If you believe your baby is malnourished, dehydrated or in any type of serious distress, seek medical attention right away. Dehydration is a serious issue for small babies, and your breast milk is all your baby has to stay hydrated.
If you see some potential signs that your baby needs more milk but you aren’t certain and you know your baby is relatively healthy and stable, assess the following to see if there are simple answers that will fix the problem:
- Your Milk Supply – Do you think the problem is the amount of milk that you’re producing? You may come to this conclusion if your baby seems to want more milk after both of your breasts are empty. They may also demand more frequent feedings, allowing your milk to rebuild some before going back for seconds or even thirds. You can try strategic pumping to increase the demand for milk. There are other strategies available for increasing your milk supply naturally if you are seeing signs of low milk supply.
- Your Baby’s Latch – Does your baby seem to struggle with latching properly? You may come to this conclusion if breastfeeding causes you a lot of pain or discomfort, your nipples are cracked or painful, or your baby has difficulty staying latched and swallowing in a rhythmic pattern. You may need to consult with a pediatrician, family doctor or lactation consultant to correct the problem. It may also simply be a matter of trying different positions until you find one that encourages a healthier latch.
- Your Feeding Schedule – Are you trying to stick to a breastfeeding schedule with arbitrary times or one that seems to fit your baby’s natural feeding needs? Maybe you’re breastfeeding on demand with no schedule in place. Thinking about the timing and restrictions on the schedule may help you find issues that are interfering with your baby’s access to your breast milk or desire to feed at the right times.
In many cases, new mothers worry about a baby’s milk intake when there is no real problem. If you’re still worried that your little one needs more nourishment than you can naturally provide, talk to a doctor or lactation consultant before you give up breastfeeding or start supplementing with bottles. Checking your baby’s growth rate and looking at other markers of health may give you the comfort needed to continue the breastfeeding journey.
If there are barriers to breastfeeding that make your journey a little more difficult, know that there are solutions to most problems. Look to local parenting groups and ask your pediatrician about support groups if you want the support of other mothers going through similar issues.
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