Is My Baby Getting Enough Breast Milk?

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It’s a constant worry on the mind of new breastfeeding moms and the top contender on every breastfeeding FAQ list: “How do I know if my baby is getting enough breast milk?”

It’s a valid concern for any new parent. Proper nutrition for infants, especially in the first few weeks after birth, is critical for proper growth and development. And for a new mom who’s getting the hang of the perfect latch, bonding with baby and trying to take care of herself—all while functioning on very little sleep—breastfeeding can seem overwhelming.

Fortunately for those worried about supply issues, most can rest assured that their baby is getting just the right amount of nutrient-rich breast milk they need, according to Mon Health lactation expert.

In the early days, the number of nursing sessions will vary. Moms should aim to feed around 10 to 12 times per day at first. Your baby may want to nurse a bit more or a bit less, and it’s very common for newborns to cluster feed—or “bunch” feedings together during a given time—for comfort or to stimulate mom’s milk supply.

Many moms mistake cluster feeding or frequent nursing sessions in the early days as signs that her baby is not getting enough, but that’s not always true, according to Pamela Poe, a Mon Health Medical Center Family Birth Center lactation consultant.

“Breastfeeding is a supply and demand process,” said Pamela. “Meaning the more baby nurses, the more milk mom produces.”

According to Pamela, there are 3 things to focus on when you’re worried if your baby is getting enough breast milk:

  1. Number of wet diapers per day– By day 4, baby should be having about 6 wet diapers per day. Urine should be pale in color and mild in smell.
  2. Number of bowel movements per day– Baby’s first bowel movement will be meconium, a dark green substance containing materials your baby ingested while in utero. By day 5, baby will likely have 3-4 dirty diapers a day and should have at least one bowel movement daily until 1 month. After 1 month, it is normal not to have daily bowel movements – as long as the baby’s belly is not hard or distended. A breastfed baby’s stool is usually yellow, loose, and may appear seedy. Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about frequency or appearance/consistency of baby’s bowel movements.
  3. Weight gain– If your baby is gaining the right amount of weight on breast milk alone, then he’s likely getting enough milk. It’s normal for babies to lose a small amount of weight the first couple of days after birth. From 0-4 months of age, babies should gain around 5.5-8.5 ounces per week. From 4-6 months, the amount changes to 3.25-4.5 ounces per week, and from 6-12 months they should gain 1.75-2.75 ounces per week. The average breastfed baby will double her birth weight by 3 to 4 months of age.

The CDC provides charts that show average weight of girls and boys in their first few months of life. All babies are different, so talk to your doctor about weight gain concerns.

How can I make sure my baby gets the milk he/she needs?

“Feed on demand,” stresses Pamela. “While some sources suggest a baby will want to eat every 2 to 3 hours, sometimes that isn’t always the case—feed your baby when she is hungry, whether that’s every 30 minutes or every couple of hours.”

Your baby will likely show several signs of hunger before crying out for mom’s breast.

Signs baby is hungry:

  • Licking
  • “Rooting” (when baby turns head to the side and opens mouth)
  • Sucking on hands or anything nearby
  • Sticking out tongue or opening mouth
  • Squirming
  • Fussing

Those concerned about latch issues can visit a local lactation consultant or consult a La Leche League group in their area.

For moms in the Morgantown area, Pamela encourages them to bring their babies to the “Mommy & Me Tea” meetings at Mon Health Medical Center.  View the schedule and RSVP online.

“The meetings are a great opportunity to talk with other moms and learn from each other,” said Pamela.  “I’ll be there with a baby scale, and we can assess how much milk your little one is getting during a feeding.”

If you need help breastfeeding, call Pamela at 304-598-1484.