Breastfeeding is natural, but it’s also very hard and exhausting, and not knowing if your baby is getting enough breast milk can be stressful! Having baby to breast on demand is the best way to increase your milk supply and keep up with baby’s growing needs. It can be so easy to give baby a bottle during those early weeks, especially when people that aren’t familiar with breastfeeding keep saying “just give that baby a bottle.” It is completely normal for newborns to nurse frequently and for long periods of time. They are working hard to bring in your milk supply. It can seem like baby is constantly hungry some days, and since you can’t measure “a boob full,” how are you supposed to know if baby is getting enough milk? Here are some good indicators that your baby is getting enough milk.
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Plenty of Wet and Dirty Diapers
Counting wet and dirty diapers will be your number one tool in making sure that baby is getting enough breast milk. It is also extremely important for watching out for dehydration. Newborns should have as many wet and dirty diapers as their age in days, up until the third day. For example, baby should have two wets and two dirties on day 2 and three wets and three dirties on day 3. After day three, baby should be having 5-6+ wet diapers a day and 4+ dirty diapers a day. Some babies will even poop after every single feeding, and that’s normal too.
Meconium (that lovely black tarry, thick poop!) should be passed within the first 24 hours. By days three and four, baby’s poop should be greenish and looser, and by day five or six, it should be yellow, seedy, and loose. Because breastmilk is so easily absorbed by the body and not full of “waste”, it can be normal for exclusively breastfed babies to go days or even a few weeks with out pooping. However, I would err on the side of caution with this during the first few months. This typically starts to happen around 3-4 months. Be sure to consult your pediatrician or a lactation consultant if you have any concerns.
Baby is Gaining Weight
It is completely normal for breastfed babies to lose around 7% of their body weight during the first few days of life. Around week two, he or she should be back up to their birth weight. During the first few months, breastfed babies normally gain 5-7 oz. per week. Check baby’s weight at week one and week two, and more often if there are any health concerns.
Your Breasts Feel Softer After Feedings
If your breasts feel full before feeding and softer after feedings, that’s a good sign that baby is getting some milk! Around 6-12 weeks, don’t be alarmed if your breasts suddenly seem softer, or even empty, in general (not associated with feedings);This does not indicate that you’re not making enough milk anymore! It just means that your milk supply has begun to regulate and your breasts have adjusted.
You can also always do a weighted feeding (also called test weighing) for some reassurance. This will allow you to measure how much milk your baby is getting during a single feeding. Check your local hospital and/or midwifery services to see if they have breastfeeding support groups where you can do a weighted feeding with your baby. If your local area does not offer these, you can either check with your pediatricians office to see if they will let do a weighted feeding in their office, or you can always buy your own baby scale. Here is how a weighted feeding works:
- Weigh baby with just a dry diaper on
- Feed baby from one side
- Weigh baby
- Offer the other breast to baby; He/she may or may not eat off it
- Weigh baby again if he/she nursed off it
- The difference in weight is how much your baby ate during that feeding
These are all signs that baby is getting enough milk. Only when baby is not gaining weight or isn’t having enough wet or dirty diapers should you need to supplement. Those first couple of weeks of breastfeeding are exhausting and nerve-racking, but it does get better mama. I promise!
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