We see lactation clients every day, and nearly every day we get the question, "How do I know if my baby is eating enough?"
Breastfeeding is natural, but it doesn't always come naturally. Moms want to make sure baby is getting enough milk to grow and thrive! Below we list a few "checkpoints" to consider.
Plenty of Diapers
Note how many diapers your baby is producing in a 24-hour period.
How many wet diapers? How many dirty diapers?
Day 1 of life: 1 wet and 1 dirty (will be the dark tarry poop, called meconium)
Day 2: 2 wet and/or 2 dirty (same dark, tarry meconium)
Days 3 to 5: Same pattern here, however your baby's poop will be turning to a more yellowish during this time.
Once your milk "comes in" and transitions from colostrum to "mature milk", the general rule-of-thumb is at least 6+ wet and 3-4 dirty diapers in one day.
Consistent Weight Gain
Medical professionals will tend to look for 4-8oz gains in a week's time. However, there are variations of normal infant weight gain, so what you want to look for is consistency. You can also consider how your other babies grew (if applicable). Did they pack on the pounds quickly, or was it a slower, more steady growth? Is this baby following that pattern or does something seem different? *RB&B offers weighted check-ins during our lactation consults, both in our office and during home visits!
How Your Breasts Feel
This is not indicative of thorough milk transfer, but it can be one sign that you are moving some milk. Take this into consideration with the other signs on this list.
How do your breasts feel before, then after a feeding:
Full and tight and then less full?
Heavy and then soft?
Are you feeling engorged despite frequent feeding, or only feeling "relieved" after pumping?
Baby is Alert and Ready to Eat
Is baby waking up fairly often (every 1-3 hrs) to eat, and able to stay away awake for the duration of the feed? Or does he/she frequently fall asleep soon after latching, appear lethargic while nursing? It's not an issue if the baby falls asleep while nursing, especially in the first few weeks, but if it's happening soon after latching or in the middle of every feed, it could be a sign that eating is taking more energy than the baby is receiving, and they might be working a harder than necessary.
Baby Appears Relaxed and Content After a Feed
Does the baby seem happy, peaceful, and relaxed after a feed?
Or stiff, uncomfortable, restless? Still rooting around, hands and fists to the mouth, wanting to eat shortly after the last feed?
*Please note: babies naturally "cluster feed" during times of mental and physical growth. This is how they signal to your body that they need a bigger supply or different ratio of fats/carbs/proteins. Eating frequently doesn't always indicate a problem and could in fact be a sign that baby is doing exactly what it needs to do!
There are healthy variations of normal. If your baby is thriving but doesn't "meet" one of the guidelines above, that's ok! Trust your mom gut and reach out to your pediatrician with any questions you may have. If you suspect baby may not be eating enough, you can also reach out to Richmond Birth and Baby's IBCLCs, who are trained to help you with many types of breastfeeding issues that arise, including oral tissue restrictions, problems with the sucking reflex, or supply issues. If something is outside our area of expertise, we can point you to our favorite local providers so you aren't left figuring this out by yourself!
As with any suggestions we give, please know that this is not intended to diagnose or treat medical conditions, and this is not intended to be medical advice. IBCLC's are professionals who specialize in lactation and the problems and solutions for breastfeeding and lactating moms and infants. You can always touch base with us, but we will be the first to tell you when an issue needs to be addressed to be addressed by someone with a broader skill set.