Is Your Baby Getting Enough Breastmilk?
One of the most common worries I hear from new parents is whether or not their baby is getting enough milk. I can understand the concern as when you are breastfeeding, you are unable to see how much milk your baby has consumed. This can be stressful, and you may doubt if your baby is getting what it needs.
The good news is, your baby will tell you if they are getting enough breastmilk! Everything you need to know, you can find out simply by watching them. Let me explain…
Your Baby is Gaining Weight
The age of your baby will help determine how much weight they should be gaining. It is normal for babies to initially lose some weight after they are born (up to 10%), however, that weight should be regained by 10-14 days of life. After that, we want to see them gain around 20-30 grams per day. This doesn’t mean I want you to go and buy a scale, as trying to weigh your baby daily could be really anxiety-provoking.
You can also book an in-home consultation with us where we can weigh your baby and check in with you about how feeds are going. If you are ever worried about weight gain,.
They Maintain Their Curve
Instead, pay attention to your appointments with your healthcare provider. Your baby should be staying to their growth curve, and not falling below i.e. if they were born at the 50th percentile, drop to the 45th percentile we want them to ride that curve. Falling off their curve (dropping below the 45th percentile in our example) could be a sign your baby is not getting enough milk. It is important to note that it doesn’t matter which percentile curve your baby is on, we just want them to stay on their particular curve. A baby in the 80th percentile isn’t deemed “healthier” than one in the 20th percentile. We are all different shapes and sizes as humans — we are just looking for them to follow their curve.
Wet & Dirty Diapers
What goes in, must come out! Tracking wet (pee) and dirty (poop) diapers will help you know your baby is getting enough milk. On day one of life they should have one wet and one dirty diaper, day two is two of each, day three is three, four is four, five is five, and by day six and onward your baby should be having 6+ heavy wet diapers plus dirty diapers. It can be hard to tell – diapers these days are so absorbent, but most have a strip in the front that turns colour when wet, like Huggies, whose line turns blue when the baby has peed. If you are worried about the amount of wet and dirty diapers, it is important to see your healthcare provider.
Forget the Clock
This next one may feel hard – but I want you to watch your baby, not the clock! Unfortunately, there are many opinions on how to tell when a baby has finished breastfeeding, and most of them center around the clock — “ten minutes a side” is common advice. I am here to tell you, that watching your baby will make them calmer, sleep better, and will help with weight gain. Why? Because your breastmilk composition changes as the feed progresses. If you change breasts or end the feed before your baby is done, they are not getting the milk that is highest in fat (hindmilk).
The Shallow Suck
Instead, try using our dinner and dessert method. Breast one is dinner — they will take the bulk of their feed here, getting lots of hindmilk. Watch your baby closely, are they taking big sucks and swallows? You should see their jaw moving up and down with a pause every few sucks for a swallow. The swallow will be audible when your milk comes in. When their suck starts to become more shallow, with a smaller suck, perform breast compressions a few times. This will give your baby a surge of milk and encourage bigger sucks and swallows. Once you have done a few breast compressions and your baby has slowed down again, take them off the breast, attempt a burp, and offer dessert (the second breast). They may or may not take it. This is a fantastic method for knowing if your baby is getting enough.
How Baby Behaves During & Between Feeds
How your little one behaves is dependent on a variety of factors – hunger, sleepiness, overwhelm… the list is long. Learning to decipher what factor is causing your baby’s behaviour takes time.
How your baby acts at the breast will tell you a lot about your milk supply. If they are comfortable, suck rhythmically, and become more relaxed as the feed progresses, they are likely transferring milk well, and your supply is meeting their needs. While, if you notice they are bobbing on and off the breast, pulling at the nipple, and crying, pay attention.
We also want to see the baby settled and content in between feeds. If they aren’t, this doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have enough milk, but you may consider reaching out for a feeding assessment or seeing your healthcare provider — especially if there are weight gain concerns or not enough wet and dirty diapers in 24 hours. However, if you only notice this behaviour at the breast from time to time, and everything else is okay, ask yourself, “How long has my baby been awake?”. Often, if they are overtired they will act this way at the breast, and be fussy in between feeds.
You Know Your Baby Best
I know it feels like there are a million things you should know or do as a new parent with your baby – but if you read this blog again, you will see that you and your baby have all the answers. If you feel worried about whether they are getting enough breastmilk or not, watch your baby, using the steps I described above.
I see you – I know navigating a feeding journey with your baby is a lot! If you need help, please reach out. We are all nurses, and I have personally trained and mentored each nurse with a Mama Coach nursing practice. We all care and would love to help. As well, we take insurance and HSA and FSA cards in most places. Find the nurse closest to you here.
As always, I am sending you so much love and support. You are exactly what your baby needs, even on days it doesn’t feel like it.
Carrie Bruno RN, IBCLC, MSCP