How Can I Tell if My Baby is Getting Enough Milk?

How can you tell if your little one is getting enough of your liquid gold while nursing? Learn the signs to look for and ways to measure how much breast milk your baby is actually getting.

Your breast milk is filled with antibodies to protect your baby from illness while providing a balanced diet of sugar, fat, and vitamins. Studies from the World Health Organization show many benefits of breastfeeding, including evidence that breastfed babies perform better on IQ tests, are at a lower risk of obesity, and have lower blood pressure. Breast milk is, quite simply, the ideal meal for your precious little one.

But how can you know if your baby is getting enough of your liquid gold? It can be difficult for a new mom to gauge, especially if you’re new to breastfeeding. The good news is there are several signs you can look for and easy ways to tell if your baby is getting all the milk their little body needs:

Steady Weight Gain

The best way to monitor your baby's milk consumption is to track their weight. During the first two weeks of life, it's normal for your baby to lose up to 10% of their body weight. In fact, many babies even weigh a little less than their initial birth weight upon discharge from the hospital. However, after two weeks, they should begin to gain 5 to 8 ounces per week until they reach four months of age, when weight gain slows down a bit.

If you notice your baby has not regained their birth weight after 14 days or is showing signs of not eating enough, contact his or her pediatrician and a lactation consultant right away. They can help you through any feeding challenges and may ask you to increase the frequency of your feeding sessions.

Steady Stools and Wet Diapers

Another way to tell if baby is getting enough milk is by checking their diapers, including stool color, amount, and size. After the first three or four days of life, a healthy baby consuming a proper amount of milk will usually have about three to four stools daily. A healthy stool for a breastfed baby during this stage is yellow and may have a seedy texture.

Wet diapers are also a good indication that your baby is drinking enough milk. Once your milk has come in (typically between 2 – 5 days after delivery), your baby should have at least 6 wet diapers and 3 or more diapers with a bowel movement per 24-hour period. If they pass stools less frequently during the first few weeks, you should speak with your pediatrician about it.

Swallowing Well

The next time you feed your baby, watch and listen for swallowing. A baby that swallows well will suck rapidly for a few seconds and then stop. When they stop, you may see the jaw drop and hear the baby swallow.

If baby continues to suck constantly, they likely aren't swallowing well. If your baby is not swallowing well, they may not be consuming an adequate supply of milk.

Normal Feeding Routine

Babies should breastfeed every two to three hours or roughly 8 to 12 times per 24-hour period. If your baby is lethargic and nurses less than this each day, they probably aren't getting the milk they need as their little stomachs can only hold very small amounts per feeding during the first several weeks.

On the other hand, if your baby is constantly feeding with less than an hour in between, it may be an indication that your milk supply is low. Be sure to seek the advice of a lactation consultant. A quality breast pump can help you maintain your milk supply after nursing is well-established.

Monitor Your Breasts

Finally, your breasts can also indicate if you need to consider your milk supply. If you find that your nipples look pinched or white and/or the feeding process is painful, your baby may not be latching well.

To help baby latch more effectively, cup your breast in the palm of your hand and gently tickle your little one’s lower lip with your nipple. When he or she opens their mouth, carefully guide their head onto your breast. You’ll know that your baby has latched well when their mouth is open wide, their lips are turned outward (similar to a rosebud), and you feel a tug – but no pain! – as he or she suckles.

Other Ways to Increase Breast Milk Supply

Other ways to increase your breast milk supply include drinking more water and feeding your little one on demand. In addition, using a breast pump can help you maintain your milk supply when away from baby and may even enable you to have pumped milk on hand that can be frozen and stored for your baby to enjoy later on when being fed by another caretaker, such as your partner, a grandparent, or a babysitter. Just remember, if your baby is nursing well, ensure you have a well-established milk supply (which typically occurs in the first 3 – 4 weeks) before using a pump to replace a feeding.

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