It’s natural that breastfeeding mothers sometimes worry that their baby is not getting enough milk. Unlike formula-feeding, there’s no way to know exactly how many ounces your baby is having at each feed. As you progress through your breastfeeding journey you’ll be able to distinguish between feeds where your baby has emptied your breast and feeds where they just took a small amount possibly just for comfort rather than hunger. Until then, here are some great ways to know your baby is getting enough milk.
Understanding your supply
It’s useful to be realistic about how much your newborn will eat in the first days. Their stomach is very small at birth and gets bigger quickly during the first days of their life. In response to their small stomach size, your breasts make nutritionally dense first milk called Colostrum so they get maximum nutrition without the volume. Your milk will fully come in around day three when your baby’s stomach can hold about 1 ounce. Your supply will gradually increase in response to your baby’s growing appetite.
How to know if your baby gets enough breastmilk
- They swallow. When your baby first latches onto your breast, they will suck quickly, releasing the milk, then settle into rhythmic sucking and swallowing with occasional pauses. If уоur baby іѕ having trouble getting your milk, they mау bе suckling quickly but nоt swallowing. They mау аlѕо tаkе lоng breaks оr fall asleep repeatedly whіlе feeding.
- Rounded cheeks while feeding. Your milk should come out with gentle sucking from your baby. If they’re sucking too hard you’ll see their cheeks hollow during feeding.
- They seem settled. Newborns have never experienced hunger before so they feel frantic when they have this new uncomfortable feeling and the only thing that will soothe them is a full belly. If they’re not getting enough milk they won’t feel settled after feeding. They may sleep for a short time after feeding but wake up very upset.
- Plenty of nappy changes. If your baby is going through plenty of nappies, this is a great indicator that they’re getting enough breastmilk. Most breastfed babies will wet 6-10 nappies per day and dirty at least three nappies per day. The colour of the poop is also important: While the first few poos are black and sticky, they will turn greenish-yellow on the third/fourth day and yellow on the fourth/fifth day. The consistency will usually be loose/watery and seedy in texture.
- Their weight is increasing well. In their first 3 months, breastfed babies usually gain around 150-200 grams (just under half a pound) per week. Your public health nurse will keep track of your baby’s weight gain and let you know if they are not gaining weight at a steady pace.
- Your supply is increasing. If your baby is consistently emptying your breasts then your supply will naturally increase to accommodate their growing appetite.
- Their latch is not painful. The first days of breastfeeding can be uncomfortable, but once a proper latch is established there should be no pain. An improper latch can make it difficult for your baby to get enough milk. Read our blog post All About Breastfeeding for more information about perfecting the latch.
Common Misconceptions about Low Supply
Many breastfeeding mothers fear that their supply is too low to feed their babies, citing one of the following reasons:
- Their baby wants to feed very frequently (it’s normal for babies to feed around 12 times a day)
- Their baby cries whenever they’re put down
- Short feeds
- Long feeds
- Their breasts feel soft
- They don’t get much milk when they pump (pumps are not as efficient as your baby)
- They have small breasts (breast size has no correlation to milk production)
- Their baby seems to enjoy bottles
How to boost breastmilk supply
If you’re worried about your supply, talk to your doctor, the public health nurse or a lactation consultant. They will be able to tell you if you’re producing enough milk. If you would like to boost your supply, there are some things you can do.
- If you’re exclusively breastfeeding – stick with it. If you’re combination feeding – increase the number of feeds from the breast. You may be tempted to supplement with formula when you’re worried about your supply, but replacing breastfeeds with formula feeds will only decrease your supply as your baby feeds from the breast less often.
- Do more skin-to-skin with your baby. This gets your love hormone Oxytocin flowing which increases your breastmilk production. Anything that gives you that “lovey-dovey” feeling is great for your milk supply.
- Check your own nutrition. This is a very literal example of the phrase “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. When you’re looking after a newborn it’s easy to forget about yourself. If you’re not eating enough your milk supply can be affected. Aim to eat about 2500 calories per day while breastfeeding to ensure your body has the energy to produce plenty of breastmilk. Taking a multivitamin can also help to prevent any deficiencies. Some of the most important vitamins during breastfeeding include Iron, Calcium, Iodine, Vitamin D and Vitamin B12.
There are products on the market that claim to increase breastmilk production, such as teas or cookies. However, their efficacy has yet to be proven and they can tend to be expensive.