Worries over whether or not a baby is getting enough milk when they are breastfed is common amongst new parents, as unlike with formula, there is no way to tell just how much a baby has drunk. As you get to know your baby, you will soon learn his or her cues for hunger and for feeling satisfied, and of course, the results will be visible in how much your little one grows.
How Often Do I Need To Feed My Baby?
The key to successful breastfeeding is to feed on demand. This means when your baby shows sign of hunger you give them a feed, rather than waiting for a set time. You will find after a few weeks your baby will settle into a fairly predictable routine.
Your baby may be quite sleepy in the first day or so after giving birth, and may not feed as much, tricking you into thinking that you have an “easy” baby! However, this will pass and after the first couple of days your baby will feed several times a day, possibly up to 12 times or more. You should expect to feed your new-born at least 8 times in each 24 hour period and if your baby is particularly sleepy you may need to wake him or her up for a feed until they have regained their original birth weight and are starting to put weight on (all babies lose around 5% of their birth weight in the first few days of their lives and this is normal).
It’s also important to note that in the early days of breastfeeding “cluster feeding” is normal. This is where the baby seems to continually need to feed over several hours. It can be very draining physically and emotionally for the new mother, but it is not a sign that your baby is not getting enough milk. Instead, it is your baby’s natural way of establishing a breastfeeding relationship with you.
After the first couple of weeks, your baby will start to take more milk in each feed and may reduce the number of feeds they have to six or more a day. However, you can expect this to fluctuate during times of growth spurts, illness, etc.
How Can I Tell If My Baby Is Getting Enough Milk?
There are lots of signs to look out for that will tell you if your baby is getting enough milk. Firstly, during feeding, after the first few sucks, you shouldn’t feel any pain. If you do, then your baby may not be latching properly, which can affect how much milk he or she can receive. Try taking the baby off the breast and then re-latching several times until it feels comfortable. If you are still experiencing pain, then speak to your midwife, health visitor, or breast feeding advisor. It could be as simple as changing how you hold your baby during feeds, or something more complicated, such as your baby being tongue-tied which would prevent them from latching correctly. After feeding, your breast should feel a lot softer.
You should also be able to hear your baby swallowing during feeds. Your baby will make a quiet sound with each swallow, often described as a “kuh” sound. This is another sign that your baby is feeding normally.
Other signs that indicate that your baby is feeding well include being alert, having six or more wet nappies every day after the first few days, and regular poos that have a mustard like appearance. Your baby will also have a healthy colour and settle after each feed.
Of course, the main indicator of a healthy baby is weight gain. Your baby will lose some weight in the first few days, but ideally will have regained that weight by the time he or she is two weeks old. Your health visitor will weigh your baby during home visits initially, and depending on your area, you may be able to attend regular clinics where your baby can be weighed and any concerns you have can be discussed.
Signs That Your Baby Isn’t Getting Enough Milk
If your baby isn’t getting enough milk, then a lack of weight gain will be the main indicator, however, there are other signs for you to look out for. If your baby is not pooing regularly or the poo seems hard or dry, or your baby is not having many wet nappies, then this could be a sign of dehydration. Furthermore, your baby may seem very sleepy, and you may find that you frequently have to wake them for feeds.
Many babies are born with a slightly yellow appearance and this is normal, however, if your baby’s appearance doesn’t improve after a couple days, or they become more yellow, or turn yellow after previously having a normal colour, then your baby might not be getting enough milk. It’s important to seek help as soon as possible if you have any concerns.