This is one of the most common questions and the most common concern for new mothers. How can you tell if your newborn Breastfed baby is getting enough milk to eat? It would make things much easier if we all had dash marks on our breasts, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, we are not blessed with such markings, but Nature did give us a few other tricks and ways to tell if your breastfed baby is getting enough milk.
The first 3 days
For the first 3 days of life your baby will have what are known as ‘bursts of sucking.’ This is when there is a fair amount of sucking, 6-20 sucks or even more, followed by a pause, then a swallow. Your baby will not swallow after every suck since the Colostrum (find out what Colostrum is here) your baby is drinking at this stage is in very small quantities. Often, your baby will nurse for 10 – 30 minutes on each breast.
After day 3
After day 3 your baby will still spend 10 – 30 minutes (or a bit longer!) on each breast, but there will be a different pattern to the suckling. There will be longer, more drawn out sucks with more audible swallowing, followed by a pause.
It is important to know that ALL babies lose weight in the first 3 – 4 days of life due to fluid loss and cleaning the meconium out. This is normal, and as long as it is within reason, no cause for alarm. Your Doctor or Lactation Consultant will keep track of your newborn’s weight in these first days to make sure everything is on track. After day 5, your baby should start gaining weight and be back up to birth weight around the 14th day of life.
Diapers can tell you if your Breastfed Baby is getting enough milk!
When your breastfed baby is getting enough milk, he or she will also have adequate wet and dirty diapers. After all, “What goes in – must come out!”
Remember, babies need to be fed often – at LEAST 8-12 times in a 24 hour period. In the first week of life, the number of wet and dirty diapers will increase. At first, stools will be black, tarry and rather sticky. This is meconium, also known as the “Newborn Poop.” Over the course of the next few days that will lighten to green or brown, and become less sticky. After your milk volume increases, you should notice that your baby’s stools become liquidy, and appear a seedy mustard yellow. This is totally normal, and what is considered “Breastmilk poop.”
Your baby will progressively have more wet and dirty diapers as the days go by, from a goal of 1 wet and 1 soiled diaper on day 1 to an average of 6 wet and 3 soiled diapers by day 7. These numbers can change if you are using cloth diapers, which hold less than disposables. I have included numbers here as a reference only, but please do not become bogged down by them. Every baby is different and so are their elimination habits. Just make sure that they are producing both wet and dirty diapers.
This is just an average, some babies may produce more soiled diapers or less. Though if that amount is far different from this stated standard, address it with your Doctor or Lactation Consultant. As your baby ages and their stomach lining closes, they may even produce FEWER soiled diapers. This is also normal as long as they are still stooling.
If you want a way to track your baby’s wet and soiled diapers, here is a FREE PDF copy of the Wet / Soiled log form I give out in my Breastfeeding Basics class. It covers the 1st week of life.
Other ways to tell if your newborn breastfed baby is getting enough milk
Before Nursing, your breast will feel firmer. After, they will feel softer – though this is not always as noticeable prior to your milk volume increasing between day 3 to day 5.
Let – Down
Let down is also known as the Milk Ejection Reflex. This instinctive reaction to your infant’s suckling is what releases the milk from breast lobules. For many mothers, this sensation can actually be felt. Some describe it as a tingling, while others note that it may feel like pressure, pins and needles or even a slight burning. All these feelings are normal. It is also normal for some women to feel nothing at all. If you do not feel the let-down, watch your baby. His or her sucking pattern will change when the milk is released.
The first few days to weeks that your newborn is home with you is a time of high emotion, change and learning – for BOTH of you. While it is completely normal to worry that your breastfed baby is getting enough milk, it cannot be your prime focus or concern. Adequate wet / soiled diapers plus weight gain are prime indicators that your baby is eating enough. If you are truly concerned, consult your Doctor, Mid-Wife or Lactation Expert before that worry consumes you (trust me… I worried to the exclusion of almost everything else!)
Be sure to get your FREE PDF Wet/Soiled Log! It covers the 1st week of your newborn’s life.