How Do I Know if My Baby is Getting Enough Breast Milk?
Many mothers worry that their baby isn't getting enough milk, and this is a very legitimate concern as unlike with bottle feeding, you can't tell how many ounces your baby is drinking. However, it's very rare that a new mother can't make enough milk for her baby, as breast milk works on a supply and demand basis. Although some mothers are unable to produce an adequate milk supply, these cases are extremely rare and are usually connected to a medical problem. Sometimes a baby might not get enough milk if they are not nursing correctly, or if there is a physical difficulty which prevents them from being able to nurse. There are certain ways you can ensure your baby is getting enough milk. Below are some guidelines to assess your baby's milk intake.
Feeding Your Baby on Demand
Feed your baby as often as he wants to feed; newborn babies shouldn't be put on any kind of feeding schedule or they won't get enough milk. You don't need to wait until your baby cries to offer her milk, and instead look out for signs of hunger such as turning her head in search of your breast (rooting), making noises, opening and closing her mouth and sucking on her fist or clothes. Newborns should feed at least 8 times every 24 hours, although some babies nurse 10-12 times a day. Babies normally nurse every one and a half to 3 hours during the day, but many babies are drowsy for the first week of life, especially if the mother was given certain drugs during labour such as pethidine. If your baby seems drowsy, you may need to wake him for feedings. If your baby seems reluctant to feed because of tiredness, squeeze a little milk out to tempt him.
Checking Your Baby is Properly Latched On
Your baby can't get milk from you if she is not latched on properly, so check that she is properly attached. She should have a large mouthful of breast, with her chin firmly touching your breast. The first few tugs will feel strong but breastfeeding shouldn't hurt; if it does it is a sign your baby isn't latched on correctly. Take her off the breast and try again. If your baby is getting a good feed, her cheeks will be rounded, and she will be rhythmically taking long sucks and swallowing. Your baby may pause occasionally to take a break, and then carry on sucking. If your baby is getting enough milk, she will be relaxed during feedings, and come off the breast by herself. You will probably be able to hear your baby swallowing during feeds. Your baby should be satisfied after feeds, but if your baby seems hungry after feeds, see your midwife or doctor to get your baby weighed.
Can I Get Help With Feeding?
Breastfeeding is a skill, and it doesn't come automatically to mothers so get help if you're struggling with breastfeeding. Your midwife will be able to provide you with a copy of Bump to Breast DVD which shows you how to get your baby to latch on, and the best positions for breastfeeding. You can speak to your midwife or health visitor to get help on breastfeeding, or go to breastfeeding classes run at many children's centres. To find a breastfeeding centre near you, go to Breastfeeding Network centre locator. You can also phone the National Breastfeeding Line on 0300 100 021 to speak to a breastfeeding counsellor.
How to Increase Your Milk
If you're worried about your milk supply, there are ways you can increase it. Skin to skin contact as soon as possible after the birth encourages your body to supply milk, and keeping your baby close to you reminds your body to make milk. Your baby may seem to be feeding all the time, but this isn't a sign that you're not producing enough milk, it is your baby's way of building up your milk supply. Let her feed as often as she wants, and your body will produce the right amount for your baby.
Check your Baby's Nappies!
If your baby isn't getting enough milk, they will have very few wet or soiled nappies. For the first couple of days, your baby will produce only one or two wet nappies a day, but these will gradually increase, and by the time your baby is 5 days old they will have at least 6 wet nappies every 24 hours. Your baby's urine should be pale, and not dark. Your baby's first bowel movement will be meconium, after which it changes to become loose and yellowish at around day 4. Babies should have between 2-5 soiled nappies every 24 hours. If your baby isn't producing many wet or dirty nappies, take them to see a doctor.
Check Your Baby's Weight
Weight gain is the best indicator of whether your baby is getting enough milk. It's very common for babies to lose 5-7% of his weight in the days after birth, but most babies regain their birth weight by 2 weeks. Your baby should be weighed by a health visitor or midwife 3-5 days after birth. It's a good idea to have your baby weighed when they are one week old, as your milk will have come in by then so your baby should start to put on weight. and then again at 2 weeks, to check they have regained their birth weight. Keep checking your baby's weight by taking her to your local clinic or childrens centre to ensure she is getting enough milk.
Signs of Dehydration
If you notice any of the following signs, take your baby to a doctor immediately:
- A sunken fontanelle (the fontanelle is the soft spot on the top of your baby's head)
- Listlessness or lethargy
- A weak cry
- A dry mouth
- Low urine or stool output
- Dark urine