Wondering if your baby is getting enough breast milk? Don’t stress! Know what signs to look for to tell whether or not your baby is still hungry.
Many first-time moms new to breastfeeding struggle to understand why baby feeds often.
Baby may feed for 20 minutes. Again for 40 minutes. And then cry for more shortly after.
It can be quite confusing and make any new mom assume baby is just not getting enough milk…or worse yet, that she is doing something wrong.
But the truth is, this is all very normal and to be expected while breastfeeding a newborn.
Why we doubt our breastmilk is enough
So besides the newness of breastfeeding and frequent feedings, what is it that contributes to moms questioning whether baby is actually taking in enough milk from our breast?
Well, it could be a number of things including:
- The latching and unlatching
- Baby fussing at the breast
- The comparison to formula-fed babies who may appear “chubbier”
- Or our breast just feeling “empty” after feeding
All of these things lead to concerns about baby’s satisfaction.
Ways to Tell Baby is Getting Enough Breast Milk
So how can you really tell if your breastfed baby is taking in what he needs to be full? Let’s look at the top indicators.
The most obvious way to tell if your new baby is getting enough breast milk is by weighing. Those early baby check-ups are so key for many reasons, including being able to track growth progress. At every visit, your pediatrician will weigh your newborn to determine if he or she is taking in milk properly.
If you’re worried that baby is NOT getting enough milk, but then the scale indicates he/she is gaining weight, you shouldn’t worry too much. If on the other hand, baby isn’t gaining enough weight, you should keep digging — is baby not latching properly? Or does he/she have a tongue-tie?
NOTE: It is completely normal for a baby to lose weight the first few days after birth, as you adjust to breastfeeding. However, after about two weeks baby should be back at birth weight.
Remember those little dolls back in the day (or today’s equivalent doll) that would pee immediately after eating? Well, as funny as they were, they certainly got it right! Because the more baby takes in, the more baby will let out. Meaning, if you’re changing many diapers (every 2-3 hours) those first few weeks then it’s another indicator that baby is in fact getting enough breast milk.
Use the chart below to keep track of wet diapers and alleviate some of those new mom worries.
A Good Latch
Another sign that your baby is getting enough milk is to check the latch on your breast.
- Are baby’s lips covering the entire breast/areola (and not just nipple)?
- Is the baby swallowing?
- Are baby’s lips turned out?
- Is breastfeeding comfortable and pain-free (for the most part)?
A good latch ensures that baby is actually properly attached to the breast and therefore taking in the right amount of milk needed.
Now if you’re struggling to properly latch or are unsure if baby is latched well, look out for things like…lots of pain while breastfeeding, baby sucking on only the nipple, your baby’s lips are not out like a fish, or baby is making smacking noises while trying to suck.
Feeds on Demand
One of the most tried-and-true ways to really tell that your baby is getting enough breastmilk is by there feeding habits. Newborn babies will breastfeed frequently — that’s just the truth. Breastmilk is easily digested so once they take in and push out, there will be more room to replenish.
If you think about the size of a baby’s stomach and feeding capacity, visualize this:
- Day 1: 5-7 ml is about the size of a large marble or a cherry
- Day 3: 22-27 ml is about the size of a ping pong ball or a walnut
- One week: 45-60 ml is the size of an apricot or plum
- One month: 80-150 ml is about the size of a large chicken egg
So when you start to question why baby is always nursing…and take that to mean baby just isn’t getting enough milk, let this sink in. Your newborn nursing at least 10-12 times in 24 hours is actually very normal. Baby takes in what he/she needs — so while frequent feedings may seem excessive, they are exactly what their tummy AND your milk supply need.
According to the idea of responsive feeding from the American Academy of Pediatrics, we can use baby’s cues and respond warmly and promptly. So to determine if baby is getting enough milk, we can watch for fullness cues and respond accordingly. In this video, you can see some cues baby gives to indicate fullness. This includes things like:
- Starting and stopping feeding often
- Spitting out or ignoring the breast
- Unlatching often while feeding
- Closing mouth or turning head away
- Slowing down or falling asleep
If you’ve noticed these signs before and simply attributed them to another issue, take note. Baby is trying to tell you he/she is actually full and getting all they need (for now!).
The next time you find yourself asking Is baby getting enough breastmilk? know what signs to look for. Because then you can stress a little less and enjoy that precious bonding time together!
Ana, a mom to three rambunctious little boys, has supported hundreds of thousands of women throughout their pregnancy and motherhood journey since 2012 as a blogger and maternal health advocate at MommysBundle.com.