Is My Baby Getting Enough Milk?
Let’s Talk About Milk.
If there is one thing I hear consistently from mothers while they are pregnant (and quite often after they have had their baby), it’s this question:
“How do I know if I’m making enough milk??”
As a birth worker, I strive to ease as many fears as possible with simple, yet empowering information that can benefit a new mom when it comes time for breastfeeding.
First and foremost, I’ll address that all women are individual in their breastfeeding and milk making journeys. Secondly, respecting that the mother is an individual is very important, but so is acknowledging that the baby is, too. A woman may have had three children, but she can tell you the differences of each nursing relationship and the struggles she faced with each baby.
Here’s a simple checklist to help ease that worried mind about whether or not you are making enough milk for your baby:
Is your baby feeding frequently?
A breastfed baby should be nursing 8-12 times within a 24 hour period. This will shift as baby gets older or when she experiences growth spurts (Hooray for cluster feeding). The duration at breast may vary for the baby, but bringing baby to breast with frequency is incredibly important in creating and maintaining a supply adequate for baby. Nursing baby often helps maintain that supply. Think along the lines of 10th grade Economics: Your body is helping to create a supply and demand type of transaction. This transaction just also includes lots of love and snuggles.
Is baby exhibiting signs of milk transfer?
This is where one of the most vital tools a mother has comes into play- her eyes! Take a close look at your baby. Is his jaw moving? Do you see and hear deep audible swallowing sounds? Not to get romantic with you, but check how your breasts feel after you do a complete feed with baby. Do they feel lighter? Less full? This is a great physical sign that your wee one took milk from your breast! Your breasts are changing quite dramatically just within the first few days postpartum, and feeling for difference in firmness and heaviness can be most helpful in knowing that baby transferred milk.
Is baby gaining weight?
Of course, this question is only best answered by actually weighing baby for the most exact results. A good rule of thumb on average (according to the World Health Organization) is that your baby will gain 5.5-8.5 ounces a week up until 4 months of life. Most newborns lose weight right after birth, so don’t panic! Make regular appointments with the Pediatrician. Follow up with a Certified Breastfeeding Counselor or IBCLC for an accurate pre & post weight check to verify that milk was transferred during a nursing session. Check out lactation support groups like La Leche League to see if they have a scale you can access. Babies tend to grow in spurts, so a weight check once a week can be beneficial if you are genuinely worried that baby isn’t gaining weight. We should also mention that if you happen to be pumping breast milk, the quantity that ends up in the bottle isn’t always indicative of “enough milk” for your infant. The pump doesn’t always remove as much milk as your infant does from the breast. Don’t despair. Seek lactation support and know that the milk you produce will change as your baby gets older.
What’s your baby’s disposition?
Is your little one comfortable at breast? Does he seem to be satisfied after a nursing session? Let’s keep in mind that a newborn goes through some crying phases and growth spurts that may make you think baby is not very happy. Some fussiness is to be expected as they go through these periods. If you are responding to baby’s hunger cues and he is meeting milestones, developmental markers, and seems alert and active you have some great signs that baby is getting enough milk.
Diapers can be a fantastic barometer for knowing if your supply is satisfying your child. Changing wet and dirty diapers, although not a delightful task, can guide you in knowing if baby is meeting feeding milestones. Once your baby is born you’ll hear the old adage of “One dirty diaper for each day of life,” and this increases and changes as your milk supply changes. Your infant doesn’t need much milk in those first few days. In fact, they are getting by on your colostrum rich liquid gold until that milk comes in all the way. If you find that you are feeding baby on demand and as often as 8-12 times in a 24 hour period but the output in the diaper region isn’t matching that, reach out for medical support.
There are a few other factors involved if you find that your supply isn’t quite where it should be. Make sure that your Lactation support checks for restrictions like a lip and/or tongue tie. You may have ample supply, but baby may not be able to draw out all of the milk due to restrictions.
Learning a good latch is incredibly important in the journey of breastfeeding, and so is your comfort level. Do your best to stay relaxed even when it can feel overwhelming. Stay hydrated, fed and rested.
Ultimately we want you to know that breastfeeding is a journey, one which you will navigate to the best of your ability but by no means is your supply indicative of your success. Set small goals, make sure you have adequate support and a resource of people to contact to ask those questions that leave you feeling like your supply isn’t “enough.”