Breast Milk: Is My Baby Getting Enough To Eat?

December 17, 2008

Most breastfed babies will get enough to eat if their mothers' nurse them whenever they show hunger cues and are latched on and nursing properly. Here are some ways to tell if your baby is getting enough.

Watch Your Baby Nurse

Your baby starts a feed with short choppy sucks. Her sucking becomes deeper and more rhythmic once your milk begins to flow. There will be a short pause in her chin as it reaches the widest part of the suck. The pause indicates a swallow and this pause will be longer or shorter depending on how much milk the baby is swallowing. You may hear a soft "ca" sound. Don't worry if you don't hear your baby gulping milk. Most babies don't gulp milk especially during the first few days. Your baby is probably eating correctly if he sucks and swallows for 10 minutes of a feed either from one breast or both. Ten minutes could take up to 40 minutes of being on the breast/breasts depending on your flow and how often the baby rests. Most babies will release the breast alone when they are finished.

Count Your Baby's Diapers

Your baby's wet and dirty diapers are a sure sign that he is eating. You should expect your baby to make as many wet diapers as his age in days. That is, on his first day he should have one wet diaper, two on his second and so on until he is 6 days old. He should continue having 6 really wet diapers a day after that. To know if a diaper is wet enough, pour 3 tablespoons (2 for a smaller baby) of water onto a dry diaper and feel its weight. Different brands of diapers will feel different.

Your baby's first stools are dark and tarry. By the third days they should be lightening up and will become mustard colored and formless or watery by day 5. After that, your baby should have 3-4 dirty diapers at least the size of an American quarter (2.5 cm) Dirty diapers are a good indication of food intake during the baby's first month. After that many babies stool less often, even going a week at a time without a dirty diaper.

Your Baby's Weight

In the first few days most babies lose about 5 to 7 percent of their birth weight. By day 4 your baby should reach his lowest weight.  After that, he will probably gain an average of 6 ounces or 170 grams a week for the first four months. After 4 months his growth slows down. If your baby is not growing as expected even though he seems to be getting enough milk, he needs to be checked by his doctor for any health problems.

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