There are common signs that lactation professionals and pediatricians use to determine if your baby is getting enough breast milk. As a breastfeeding mama, it is helpful for you to know these too. Knowing these signs or doing your own assessment, does not replace seeing a lactation specialist or pediatrician. If you have any doubts, please consult your lactation professional or pediatrician.
Breastfeeding is a learned behavior. Your body produces milk naturally, but it takes time to learn your baby, and for your baby to learn you. you learn to breastfeed together, which is part of the reason why it is so special. It is a bonding experience.
As your milk comes in, you may be wondering if your supply is adequate.
Your milk supply grows as your baby grows. This is part of the reasoning behind cluster feeding. Your baby removes the milk from your breasts, and that tells your body to make more milk. The more frequent they remove it, the more milk your body will produce. Sometimes it can seem like they just aren’t getting enough because you are always nursing. You may just need additional reassurance that your baby is getting enough breast milk. Whether you’re bottle-feeding or exclusively breastfeeding, these tips will help you understand if your milk transfer is occurring.
Signs Your Baby is Getting Enough Breast Milk
Your baby is gaining weight and meeting the guidelines for weight gain.
It’s totally normal for them to lose weight after birth and even before you leave the birth center or hospital, but no more than 7 percent of their birth weight. They also should not lose any more weight by day 5. After that, exclusively breastfed babies should gain 1 ounce or more a day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. By the end of their second week of life, they should be above their birth weight. Don’t compare your baby to a formula-fed baby; breastfed babies gain weight faster in the early months, and then slower in months 6-12.
Your baby’s diaper count is right on track.
By day 4 after birth, your baby should be having at least 4 poopy diapers. Some of those should be yellow and “seedy.” Hard or very infrequent stools can be a sign your baby isn’t getting enough milk. Your baby should urinate every 1-3 hours at least and may have 6-8 weight diapers a day, sometimes more. Diaper output is a big indicator of whether or not your baby is getting enough breast milk. It makes sense: what goes in, must come out.
Breastfeeding sessions end by your baby.
If you’re exclusively breastfeeding your baby, and your baby is finished nursing, your baby will release your nipple from their mouth. Sometimes people call their babies “milk high” or “milk drunk” due to their relaxed state. This means their fists are unclenched, hands open, and their bodies are completely relaxed. Breastfeeding sessions are best ended by your baby. Although there is no right length of time that each session should be, your baby will nurse in the beginning weeks for 8-12 times in a 24 hour period. Those sessions may or may not occur every 2-3 hours. It is important that you watch for your baby’s feeding cues. The easiest way to ensure you’re feeding your baby when they’re hungry, is to put them on you, skin-to-skin, so you can keep an eye on the subtle cues (before they start crying, which is considered a late feeding cue and may result in your baby “giving up” to feed and falling asleep).
You are responding to your baby’s hunger cues.
Responsive feeding can seem overwhelming and tiring to a new mother, especially if your baby is cluster feeding. Watching your baby for cues is important though. If your baby is in a state of crying and unwilling to eat, it’s best if you can put your baby on you, for skin-to-skin time, sing to your baby, rock your baby. Do anything that will soothe and calm your baby.
Your baby’s feeding cues may look like this (starting with more subtle cues):
- Rooting–turning the head, especially with searching movements of your baby’s mouth and subtle body motions
- Increasing alertness, especially rapid eye movement with closed eyelids
- Flexing of the legs and arms
- Mouthing with little sucking motions
- Attempting to bring a hand to the mouth
- Sucking on a fist or a finger
- Mouthing motions of the lips and tongue
Feeding assessment is done to observe for nutritive sucking and swallowing.
A feeding assessment is best done by a lactation specialist, so your baby can be observed for adequate sucking motion and swallowing. In general, a baby’s sucking pattern will begin rapidly (eight or more sucks to one swallow). Then, the pattern shifts into two sucks to one swallow or one suck to one swallow. This pattern may change based on your milk flow. Nutritive sucking means your baby’s jaw is moving like it should be, in a rocking motion, and milk transfer is likely ideal.
The milk transfer amount is adequate.
There is a method lactation specialists and pediatricians use to determine the amount of milk your baby should be consuming each day. An adequate amount as determined by your pediatrician can help determine if your baby is getting enough breast milk. You should be breastfeeding your baby 8-12 times in a 24 hour period (including overnight feedings– babies are hungry around the clock!). There is no right or wrong amount of time it will take a baby to feed, some babies only take 5 minutes to complete a feeding session. If your feedings seem very long (over 20 minutes or so) or very short (less than 5 minutes), you should consult your lactation specialist for an assessment. They may also recommend you see your pediatrician depending on other assessment factors.
Your baby is satisfied.
The best proof of a successful breastfeeding relationship is when your baby is thriving, putting on the necessary weight, producing many wet and dirty diapers, and bonding with you and your baby’s father.
I hope you found all of these signs if baby is getting enough breast milk help to you! If you need more breastfeeding tips, be sure to download my essential guide! I included everything I wish I knew when I started breastfeeding my son!