How to Know if Baby is Getting Enough Breast Milk
How do I know if I’m producing enough breast milk and that my newborn is getting enough milk? I had a low supply at the beginning with my first baby, so I am hoping to plan better for baby number two. I was so stressed about making enough breast milk that I think I supplemented unnecessarily.
Over my own nineteen years of breastfeeding (no not all at once but staggered over eight children☺) I realized this is one of the most natural concerns new mothers have. And, during my decades of being a lactation consultant, I learned this is also one of the most common questions new mothers have. Your concerns are very valid! It can be difficult as a first-time mom to trust your body and the milk-making process. Especially because breastfeeding is not measured out the same way a prepared bottle of formula would be.
Don’t Worry, Make Milk
One of the first breastfeeding tips I learned from veteran breastfeeding moms was: “Breastfeeding is a confidence game!” The less you worry about making enough breast milk, the more likely you are to make enough breast milk.
Every new mom’s milk will come in at different speeds, day 2-5 on average. My daughter Erin’s milk didn’t come in strong until day 5. It was stressful for her, but also a very cool way to see the powerful nutritional value of colostrum. Colostrum is being produced from about 16-22 weeks of pregnancy and is the early, concentrated milk that is full of nutrients and antibodies. It delivers everything that your baby needs for the first few days. Baby’s stomach is also small at birth, and the amounts of colostrum you make are sufficient.
Look at the Quality of your Breast Milk
It’s not only the volume of your milk that causes baby to thrive and be satisfied but also the nutritional content of your milk. The heavier and fattier looking your milk, the more likely your baby is to be getting enough nourishment.
Monitor Baby’s Weight Gain
While you may hear the advice, “Weigh your baby before and after a feeding,” oftentimes that advice is both inaccurate and needlessly worrisome. During the first couple of weeks, an average baby will gain between four and seven ounces a week, or a minimum of a pound a month during the first few months. During the first week of life don’t worry if your baby loses five to seven percent of her birth weight. This is usual and is mostly a loss of excess fluid.
Record the Number of Wet Diapers
Most babies who get enough volume of breast milk will have four to six wet diapers a day by a week after birth. Babies wearing cloth diapers will have even more (6-8 wet diapers). If this is your first baby, put a couple of tablespoons of water on a diaper to learn what a wet diaper should feel like.
Record the Number and Nature of Baby’s Stools
The more milk that goes in the top end, the more stools come out the bottom end. A baby who is getting enough breast milk will usually produce a mustard-yellow color stool with a seedy, cottage-cheese consistency, at least by one week of age. Between one and four weeks of age babies who are getting enough fatty, high-calorie hindmilk will produce at least two to three yellow, seedy stools a day. Because mom’s milk is a natural laxative, some breastfeeding babies may even produce a stool with each feeding – another good sign that baby is getting enough breast milk.
While the number and consistency of bowel movements vary greatly from baby to baby, most breastfed babies will have at least one bowel movement a day. Yet, in my years as a lactation consultant, I would occasionally see babies who were getting plenty of milk but would save up their bowel movements to what I would affectionately call a “mudslide” once or twice a week.
Ensuring Enough Breast Milk Nutrients
As I mentioned earlier, by “getting enough breast milk” we mean getting enough volume and enough nutrients and calories. Some babies get enough volume of milk to keep them hydrated yet don’t nurse strong and long enough to trigger mother’s milk ejection reflex, the stage of feeding that gets baby the creamier, higher-calorie hindmilk. These babies seem well-hydrated (good urine output and lots of saliva and tears), yet their weight gain may be less-than-optimal, their skin may feel loose, and they may seem fussy and unsatisfied. If weight gain is an issue and you suspect baby may not be getting enough hindmilk, you may want to try pumping. Notice the layer of thicker milk fat that settles on the top of your expressed milk after it has been in the fridge. Try scooping that fatty layer off with your finger and feeding baby or use an orthodontic syringe.
Finally, how your breasts feel before and after feeding will give you a clue as to how much milk your baby is getting. If your breasts feel full before a feeding yet softer after feeding, this is another sign that your baby is probably getting enough breast milk. If both your breasts feel emptier after feeding and your baby gives you signs of getting enough breast milk by drifting contently off to sleep with a smile, reassure yourself that chances are she’s getting enough milk.
To read more on this subject, see our updated edition of The Breastfeeding Book: Everything You Need to Know About Nursing Your Child from Birth Through Weaning.
Martha is the mother of Dr. Bill’s eight children, a registered nurse, a former childbirth educator, a La Leche League leader, and a lactation consultant. Martha is the co-author of 25 parenting books and is a popular lecturer and media guest drawing on her 18 years of breastfeeding experience with her eight children (including Stephen with Down Syndrome and Lauren, her adopted daughter). Martha speaks frequently at national parenting conferences and is noted for her advice on how to handle the most common problems facing today’s mothers with their changing lifestyles. Martha is able to connect with both full-time, stay-at-home mothers and working mothers because she herself has experienced both styles of parenting. Martha takes great pride in referring to herself as a “professional mother” and one of her favorite quips when someone voices their concern about her having eight children in an already populated world is: “The world needs my children.”