If you are like me, there are so many questions when you are a new mom! Well, actually I am 3 years in and I still feel like I always have questions. 😉 But one question I hear so often in my line of work is, “How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?”. It’s a common concern. And understandably so… if you were feeding that milk in a bottle you would know exactly how many ounces your baby ate. And we simply don’t have those ounce marks on our breast to see how much baby is taking. This can be tough if you like to be in control (ahem, like me). But it is also a blessing in disguise! Here’s why…
One of the many benefits of breastfeeding is that it reduces the infant’s risk for obesity later on in life. This could easily be due to the fact that the infant (not the parent!) decides how much milk he/she will eat at each feeding. They are learning to regulate hunger and fullness at an early age. When bottle feeding, we as parents can easily be tempted to say, “oh look, you have one more ounce left to finish…” and then try to encourage them to finish it. But with breastfeeding, regardless of if they just wanted a small snack or if they want to eat several ounces, the infant decides.
- Here is a little side note on bottle feeding. If your baby is getting a bottle (no matter if it is breastmilk or formula) try your best to let the baby decide when they are done. Just because there is more milk left in the bottle does not mean they need to finish it. Trust that your baby will eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Paced feedings are a great way to allow this.
But back to our question… since there aren’t those ounce markers on your breasts, how can you as a breastfeeding parent rest assured that your baby is getting enough milk? Here are a few of the best signs of adequate milk supply…
- Wet diapers: What goes in must come out! Your infant should be having 6+ wet diapers in 24 hrs by the time they are 4 days old. The urine in their diapers should be pale in color and smell mild.
- Weight gain: If all that your baby is taking in is breastmilk, their weight gain is a great indicator that you are producing lots of great breastmilk and they are taking it in. They should be back to their birth weight by 2 weeks. Some weight loss in the early days is normal (about 5-7% of their birth weight). Keep up with your pediatrician regarding their weight gain. You can also talk to a lactation consultant for more information.
- They are eating 8-12 times in 24 hrs: Newborn babies tend to eat every 1-3 hrs during those early days. Some parents I talk to have thought frequent feedings mean they aren’t making enough milk because they feel their baby is ALWAYS hungry. But actually their tummy is so tiny that they need to eat often! Frequent feedings are important and a great sign.
It can also be really helpful to just watch the baby. Here are a few signs of fullness that you might not be aware of:
- Open fists. When babies are hungry or stressed, they tend to clench up their fists. When they are full and content, they tend to release their hands. This is usually when you see the “milk drunk” baby- they are relaxed and content.
- They release the breast. As I said before, babies are excellent and determining when they are full. Trust that if your baby is hungry, they will return to the breast or show you signs of hunger again soon. This is a good time to burp your baby and see if they are just taking a break or if they are done eating for the moment.
The majority of the time if your infant is waking to eat every 1-3 hours, they are having at least 6 wet diapers/day, you have no pain with breastfeeding, and they seem content after a feeding then you really have nothing to worry about! Whew!
If you have any concerns though, trust your mom instincts and ask for help! There are lots of resources out there for breastfeeding families! Find a lactation consultant in your area by asking your pediatrician or your local WIC office, or by looking up your local La Leche League. If you are having trouble finding breastfeeding help, feel free to send me a message and I can try to help you get connected to a lactation consultant. Remember that there are simply no dumb questions when it comes to breastfeeding!
Hope this helps! I’ll leave you with one of my favorite pictures of Jude after a feeding. Oh he was so little! 🙂 They grow so fast! So go enjoy your baby!