It’s incredible how much time mamas spend thinking about their baby’s nutrition. Suddenly life seems to revolve around feedings and nursing sessions, so if you’re wondering if your baby is getting enough milk, you’re not alone.
Your baby’s feeding schedule depends on age and developmental stages (hello, cluster feeding). But generally, after the early colostrum days, breastfed babies should eat 8 to 12 times over 24 hours once your milk supply is established.
But as experts and mothers alike will tell you, babies don’t always eat for nutrients. A baby may want to spend all evening on your breast because they’re going through a growth spurt, cutting teeth, or just want to be near you.
While it’s helpful to track feedings, your baby may not follow an exact schedule every day—and that’s OK. Some nursing sessions may feel like they last forever, while others are shorter.
But how are you supposed to know if your baby is getting enough milk? Here are four signs that can help you feel confident your baby is getting sufficient milk—and when you should consider reaching out for more support.
Your baby is growing
The most obvious and first place your pediatrician or lactation consultant will look is to check weight gain. A well-fed baby will gain weight and follow a consistent growth curve.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it’s normal for your baby to lose around 7% of their birth weight after birth. But by 10 days to 2 weeks, they should be back up to their original birth weight and continue to gain from there.
Average weight gain is 5 to 7 ounces a week, or about one to two pounds a month, for the first six months, and then it slows down a bit. But as with everything else, babies will follow their own patterns and grow at their own pace.
It’s the average growth over time that matters, which is part of the reason your pediatrician doesn’t have you weigh your baby every day. As long as your baby continues on a steady growth curve, they are more than likely getting enough milk.
Your baby is content between feedings
If you listen to a breastfed baby as they feed, you’ll hear those little click-like sounds as they swallow milk. This is a good sign that your milk is letting down, and your baby is getting the nutrition they need.
When finished, a satisfied baby will either sleepily fall off the breast and nap, or they will stop nursing and appear content, alert and awake. Of course, there will always be phases where your baby might be fussy and want to stay on the breast for comfort, but usually, a full baby will not wake up or cry if they’ve had enough.
You change a lot of diapers
It may feel like you are in an endless cycle of changing diapers, feeding and swaddling, but dirty diapers are a good thing when it comes to tracking your baby’s nutrition.
The number of diapers will change with your baby’s age. As their little body grows, so does the amount of urine they can hold, but generally, a baby will have at least 4 to 6 very full, wet diapers each day (more if you use cloth because they become saturated faster).
Stool can be a bit more sporadic as babies get older, so it may not be the best indicator of how much milk they are getting (although it can give you clues about how well they are digesting the milk).
Some will have a bowel movement every day, while others may skip a few days or go even longer. You’ll start to learn your baby’s pattern to determine what’s normal for them.
Your breasts feel soft after feedings
You know that feeling when you go too long without nursing, and your breasts feel like they are so full they could pop? You can use that feeling to gauge if your baby is taking enough milk. After breastfeeding, your breasts should feel a lot less firm.
Assuming you’ve never dealt with an oversupply, firm breasts after nursing could indicate that your baby isn’t fully emptying and therefore not getting all the milk they need.
Aside from nutrition, if your baby isn’t taking all the milk, it could also affect your milk supply. If your baby stops nursing and your breast is still firm, try placing them back on your breast and see if they will latch on again.
When to reach out for help
If your mama intuition tells you something doesn’t feel right, always go with your gut. It’s better to check in with your healthcare provider even if everything turns out to be OK.
If you’re still concerned your baby isn’t getting enough milk, here are some things to look for that do indicate it’s time to call your pediatrician:
- A lethargic or very sleepy baby. If your baby isn’t getting enough milk, they will be extra tired since they aren’t getting sufficient calories.
- Pain with nursing, fussing while nursing, or baby isn’t emptying your breast. These scenarios are often remedied with the support of a lactation consultant, but it’s good to double-check that your baby doesn’t have reflux or another condition that interferes with feeding.
- Wet diapers have decreased in number, are less full, or urine is cloudy and concentrated. This is a sign that your baby may be dehydrated. Be sure to seek medical attention.
As the weeks pass, you and your baby will find a feeding rhythm and you’ll feel so much more confident. A growing baby is a good sign your baby is getting enough milk (and p.s. you’re doing a great job, mama).
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