HOW DO I KNOW IF MY BABY IS GETTING ENOUGH MILK?

For many mothers with newborns, breastfeeding worries is a common source of stress. Let’s put those concerns at ease, and remember that doing the best you can is absolutely good enough.


BY: CRYSTAL KARGES, MS, RDN, IBCLC

There are many fantastical ideas of what motherhood may be. That includes breastfeeding effortlessly, as natural as it all seems to be.  

Needless to say, many mothers experiencing breastfeeding for the first time may have their realities abruptly shattered by challenges that can be faced: latching issues, mastitis, clogged ducts, engorgement.

Beyond the physical discomfort, another issue that plague a new mother’s mind is the constant doubt and wonder if her baby had taken enough milk from her.

How can this baby possibly be getting enough milk from me if she is waking up so frequently?  
Is she hungry?  
Is she fussy because she’s not full?

Many moms attempting to breastfeed ask themselves these questions, facing their own doubts and reservations at times.  Add in a concerned pediatrician who is worried about growth and/or weight gain, and you have created a recipe for disaster.  

Especially as a new mother who is already facing so many unknowns, feeling as though your baby may not be getting enough breastmilk can be discouraging, and enough to give up on breastfeeding completely.  

Fortunately, the majority of new mothers who are breastfeeding do in fact make sufficient breastmilk to support their baby’s needs and more.  Learning and understanding signs that your breastfed baby is eating enough can help put your mama brain at ease if you’re concerned about your baby’s milk intake.  Here are the signs to look for to see if your breastfed baby is eating enough:

  • Wet Diapers: After the first few days of life, your breastfed baby should have about 6-8 wet diapers per day, indicating they are transferring sufficient milk.  Urine should be mild smelling and pale in color.  
  • Dirty Diapers: Breastfed babies will produce a mustard yellow stool that is usually loose and seedy.  By day 4 of life, breastfed babies will have about 3+ dirty diapers per day.
  • Nursing Frequency:  On average, your baby should nurse about 8-12 times per 24-hour period.  Remember that your baby’s stomach holds a smaller volume of milk, which is why they have a need to nurse frequently.  
  • Baby should appear relaxed after feedings, or generally satisfied.
  • Breasts should feel softer after nursing as milk is transferred out to baby.
  • Weight Gain: Your baby should continue to make progress with weight gain, gaining on average 4 – 7 ounces per week after the first few days of life.  
  • Audible swallowing sounds are heard by your baby as he/she is breastfeeding.

If you have any hesitation or doubt about how your baby is feeding, take action right away.  The good news is that there are many resources available that can help support you in your breastfeeding journey, so don’t feel like you have to do this alone!

Stop by your local La Leche League, breastfeeding support group, or visit a Lactation Consultant to discuss any concerns you might have.  Many women find that with some minor adjustments and a whole lot of reassurance, breastfeeding can continue normally.

Beyond the challenges of learning breastfeeding, many mothers also face unnecessary pressure to breastfeed or perhaps face scrutiny for giving their baby formula.

Regardless of how you decide to feed your baby, either via breast or bottle, with formula or breastmilk, or combination feedings, the most important thing is that you ARE feeding and nurturing your baby.

Can we all agree that mothers in general are dealing with enough as it is?  Let’s commit to building a safe community and space for all mothers, one that is without judgement or ridicule, especially when it comes to how we decide to feed our own children. Your baby will absolutely grow and thrive under your love and care, and even through the most difficult moments and struggles you might face, the precious bond you share cannot be easily broken.

Through it all, never forget that you are the perfect mama for your baby.

*Disclaimer: While I am an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in the United States, the information shared on this topic should not be construed as medical advice. In order to best identify an individualized breastfeeding care plan for you and your baby, please contact a local IBCLC.  In addition, any medical and health concerns about you or your baby should be discussed with your health care providers.  Information online should not replace in person assistance from your own IBCLC and health care professionals.  

Adapted from the original article.

Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC is a San Diego-based private practice dietitian helping others embrace their health for themselves and their loved ones.  Focusing on maternal/child health and eating disorders, Crystal creates the nurturing, safe environment that is needed to help guide individuals towards a peaceful relationship with food and their bodies.

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