How can I tell if my baby is getting enough milk?
This may be the most asked question for La Leche League Leaders. It is understandable, since breasts are neither see-through nor marked off in ounces. Thank goodness there are other signs that indicate baby is getting enough milk.
Typically during the first few days, while the baby is receiving mother's thick, immunity-boosting colostrum, he will wet only one or two diapers per day.
Once mother's milk comes in, usually on the third or fourth day, the baby should begin to have 6-8 wet cloth diapers (5-6 wet disposable diapers) per day. (An easy way to feel the weight of a wet disposable diaper is to pour 2-4 tablespoons of water in a dry diaper.)
In addition, most young babies will have at least two to five bowel movements every 24 hours for the first several months, although some babies will switch to less frequent but large bowel movements at about 6 weeks.
A baby that is sleeping rather than feeding every 2-3 hours or is generally lethargic may need to be assessed by a health care provider to make sure that he is adequately hydrated.
These are additional important signs that indicate your baby is receiving enough milk:
- The baby nurses frequently averaging at least 8-12 feedings per 24-hour period.
- The baby is allowed to determine the length of the feeding, which may be 10 to 20 minutes per breast or longer.
- Baby's swallowing sounds are audible as he is breastfeeding.
- The baby should gain at least 4-7 ounces per week after the fourth day of life.
- The baby will be alert and active, appear healthy, have good color, firm skin, and will be growing in length and head circumference.
The physical act of breastfeeding is more than the quantity of milk that is supplied, as you will find once you hold your baby in your arms. Breastfeeding is warmth, nutrition, and mother's love all rolled into one. Understanding and appreciating the signs of knowing when your baby is getting enough to eat is the one of the most important things a new mother can learn. If you have any concerns regarding your baby, they should be addressed with your health care practitioner.
If you do need to increase your milk supply after keeping track of wet diapers, bowel movements and weight gain, there are several options you can try to increase your milk supply. See our FAQ on "Increasing Your Milk Supply" and refer to our Web resource page on milk supply issues or further information. Keep in touch with your health care provider if your baby is not gaining well or is losing weight. In most cases, improved breastfeeding techniques will quickly resolve the situation, but occasionally, weight gain may indicate a health problem.
La Leche League's THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING is the most complete resource available for the breastfeeding mother and can be ordered from the LLLI Online Store or through your local Leader. The online catalogue may also have other products, such as information sheets on topics like "How to Know Your Healthy Full-Term Breastfed Baby is Getting Enough Milk" and "Increasing Your Milk." These may also be available from your local Leader. You can find a LLL Leader and Group by going to our Web page on finding a local Leader.
THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, NEW 8th Edition, published by La Leche League International, is the most complete resource available for the breastfeeding mother.LLLI Breastfeeding Tips and Products includes helpful answers to frequently asked breastfeeding questions plus a section that features books and products.