Is My Baby Getting Enough Breast Milk?

One of the biggest concerns with having a new baby is how to tell if they are getting enough nutrition. It can especially be concerning for nursing moms who cannot see the amount of milk their baby is getting with each feeding. Here are some clues moms can use to tell if their exclusively breastfed infant is getting enough milk:

  1. Weight gain: If a baby is getting proper nutrition, they will have a good rate of weight gain. A 5-7% weight loss after the first few days of birth is normal, but should be regained within the first 2 weeks of life.  After that, babies will gain around an ounce a day, or about 6 ounces per week during the first 3-4 months of age.  Babies 4-6 months old will gain about 4-5 ounces per week and 6-12 month olds gain about 2-4 ounces per week.  Exclusively breastfed babies grow a little differently than those that are formula fed; talk with your child’s pediatrician to see if your baby’s weight gain is healthy.
  2. Number of feedings: Babies need to be fed frequently because their tummies are very small and breast milk is easily digested.  Each baby will differ in how many times they want breastfeed, but the minimum amount that is recommended is 8 feedings in 24 hours for a newborn.  It is not advised for a newborn baby to go more than 3-4 hours without eating.  As babies get older they will consume larger volumes of milk less frequently.  Let your baby tell you how often they want to eat and do not put them on a feeding schedule.
  3. Dirty diapers: What goes in must come out.  After the first week of life, babies should have a minimum of 5-6 wet diapers in a 24 hour period.  It can be difficult to count how many times a baby urinates in a day since diapers can be very absorbable.  An infant’s urine should be pale yellow in color and have a mild smell.  Bowel movement patterns can also vary greatly between babies.  Initially, newborn infants will have black tarry stools (called meconium).  After the first week of life a breastfed baby should have loose, yellow stools a few times a day.  Generally keeping an eye on the baby’s diaper and changing them at least every couple hours is a good clue they are getting enough breast milk.
  4. Other positive signs: Breasts should feel soft after feeding, baby is generally content, and meeting developmental milestones are other good clues of a well fed baby.

If you have any concerns about your baby’s health please contact your child’s doctor, or a lactation consultant for questions about breastfeeding.

By Kelly Martin, MCD, RD, CD, CLE

Source: Mohrbacher N, Stock J. The Breastfeeding Answer Book.  3rd Revised Edition. Schaumburg, Illinois: La Leche League International; 2003.

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