As a breastfeeding mother, one of the most frequent questions you will ask yourself over and over again is whether your baby is getting enough milk.
The breast is not like a bottle, and it is not possible to know how many ounces of breast milk your baby has drunk.
However, there are a few signs that help you know if your baby is getting enough breast milk.
Baby’s Bowel Movement
Monitoring the frequency, color and quantity of bowel motions is one of the best ways of knowing if your baby is getting enough breast milk.
For the first few days after your baby has been delivered, the baby passes its first stool meconium, a dark green, almost black, sticky substance.
Meconium is passed during the first few days, and by the third day, the bowel movements start becoming lighter, as more breast milk is taken.
By the fifth day, a baby’s bowel movements should take on the appearance of the normal breast milk stool.
Normal breast milk stool is usually more watery and loose and is mustard colored, with a little odor.
However, bowel movements can vary in color they may be green or orange, may contain curds or mucus, or may look foamy with air bubbles.
A baby who is breastfeeding only, and is starting to have bowel movements which are becoming lighter by day three is a good sign that they are drinking enough beast milk.
Any baby between 5 and 21 days of age who does not pass at least one substantial bowel movement within a 24 hour period should be seen at the breastfeeding clinic the same day.
By the end of the first week he should be passing at least 2-3 good sized yellow stools each day, small infrequent bowel movements during this time period means insufficient intake.
There are definite exceptions and everything may be fine, but it is better to see a health care professional if you are worried.
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During the first 2-3 days of life, some babies pass pink or red urine. This is not a reason to panic and does not mean the baby is dehydrated.
No one knows what it means, or even if it is abnormal.
With six soaking wet (not just wet) diapers in a 24 hours hour period, after about 4-5 days of life, you can be sure that the baby is getting a lot of milk.
Unfortunately, the new super dry “disposable” diapers often do indeed feel dry even when full of urine, but when soaked with urine they are heavy.
Wet nappies should then start to become more frequent, with at least six every 24 hours from day five onwards. Their urine should be pale and not dark brown.
Babies are weighed at birth as weight gain can be an important indicator of health and well-being.
Weight is usually tracked for the first weeks and months. It is normal for a breastfed baby to lose a little weight before his mother’s milk comes in during the first two to four days of life.
A loss of up to 7% of a baby’s weight is usually accepted as normal. Once your milk has come in, a weight gain of 7‑10 ounces per week in the first three months is a good indication that feeding is going well and your baby is getting enough.
A baby who is hardly gaining, not gaining or who is losing more than 10% of their body weight or is still not gaining weight after 2‑4 days contact your breastfeeding specialist to review how breastfeeding is going.
Related: DO I HAVE LOW MILK SUPPLY?
Having a baby that is sleepy and sleeps well is not necessarily a good indication that your baby is nursing well.
My first born was not breastfeeding well and was sleeping a lot. Family members who meant well told me not to worry; they comforted me by saying he was probably full and that you should never wake a sleeping baby.
However, he was dehydrated and by day 9 so was lethargic he would not wake up and we were admitted to hospital.
A newborn baby should feed every 2-3 hours or anything between 8-12 times in a 24 hour period.
A baby who is sleeping through the night as a newborn, for example, may, in fact, not be getting enough milk.
A baby who is too sleepy and has to be awakened for feeds or who is “too good” may not be getting enough milk.
Putting baby on a schedule
Some people recommend putting a breast fed baby on a schedule, but putting a baby on a routine can interfere with milk supply and how much your baby drinks when he is nursing.
A young baby’s stomach is very small and breast milk is easily digestible. Newborns can nurse anywhere from 1 -3 hours. Follow your baby’s cues and not the clock.
How can I tell if my baby isn’t getting enough milk?
If your baby isn’t getting enough milk, you may also notice one or more of these signs:
1.Your baby doesn’t regain his birth weight by the time he’s 14 days old.
2. Your nipple looks misshapen or sore at the end of a feed.
3. Your baby may be unsettled after feeds.
4. Your baby is wetting fewer than five nappies at around five days old, or fewer than six nappies in a 24-hour period if he’s older than five days
5. Your baby poos less than twice a day by five days old, and the poos are not runny or yellow-coloured. A
6. Your breasts don’t feel softer after feeds.
7. Your baby makes clicking noises while breastfeeding. This is a sign that your baby isn’t latched on properly.
8. Your baby has very short bursts of sucking, followed by long pauses, and appears to fall asleep while on the first breast you offer him.
9. Your baby is sleepy for most of the time and you have to wake him to feed.
If you’re concerned about any of these signs, talk to your midwife, doctor or child health nurse.
The Bottom Line
One of the hardest things about settling into breastfeeding is feeling confident that you’re giving your baby enough milk.
Keep an eye on the signs and don’t hesitate to ask for help from your midwife, child health nurse, a breastfeeding counselor or lactation consultant at any time.
Breastfeeding is definitely natural but far from easy.
Anything that can make breastfeeding easier and help you get on the right track from day one is definitely vital.
As a new mom – there is just SO much to know about breastfeeding a baby!
From my experience, it’s a great idea to prepare for breastfeeding by taking, simple and affordable breastfeeding class.
I like the Milkology Course as it is run by a certified lactation educator, is video-based, and comes with a troubleshooting guide – now that’s important.