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How To Know If Baby Is Getting Enough Milk

It takes most first-time mothers a couple of weeks to feel really confident about breastfeeding, but it gets so much easier as the weeks go by. Remember – every feed you give your baby counts.

As well as helping your newborn to flourish and grow, breastfeeding is a fantastic way to strengthen your bond with your little one.

Midwives and lactation consultants at your maternity hospital will help you to get started with breastfeeding your baby. It’s good to have someone to help you learn to position your baby and get them to latch on correctly.

The first milk you produce is called colostrum, which has been dubbed baby’s first vaccination because it is so rich in nutrients and energy. It’s present in small amounts and as the baby’s tummy is so tiny, you can practise breastfeeding with small volumes before your milk ‘comes in.’

Newborns Feed Often

A newborn baby’s stomach is only the size of a cherry, so they need to feed often. This is why baby-led feeding, or ‘on-demand feeding’ is so important.
This is when a mother learns to recognise their baby’s subtle signs of hunger. You can expect a baby to have a minimum of eight to 12 feeds in 24 hours. Your baby can have a good feed and be hungry again quite quickly. Babies go through different patterns of feeding as they grow.

How Will I Know If My Baby Is Getting Enough Milk?

According to from the HSE, babies can lose an average of 7% of their birth weight in the first three days after birth.

Signs that your baby is getting enough milk during these early days include:
  • they wake easily,
  • they have a strong cry and move actively when awake,
  • they settle and sleep at some stage in a 24 hour period, and
  • they have regular wet and dirty nappies.

Letting them feed when they need to will ensure that they’re content and getting the milk they need, when they need it. Remember to keep a watch on baby’s wet and dirty nappies!  

What Can The Contents Of My Baby’s Nappies Tell Me?

The contents of your baby’s nappies will change during the first week. These changes will help you to know if feeding is going well.

What to expect from day one:
Day 1: At least one wet nappy and sticky black poo (baby's first poo - meconium)
Day 2: There should at least two wet nappies and less meconium.
Day 3: Baby is feeding more now, so at least three wet nappies and poos are becoming softer and a greenish brown colour.
Day 4: Expect at least four wet nappies and poos become a lighter brown/green or mustard and seedy appearance.
Day 5: At least five wet nappies with soft mustard yellow liquid poos at least three to four times every 24 hours.

Early Days Are Important for Breastfeeding

Days two to four. You can expect to be very busy on days and nights two to four as your baby wakes up more and your milk supply is increasing. These early days of frequent feeding are important as they help you to build up a good milk supply. It also gives you the chance to relax with your baby and get to know each other. Grab a catnap when baby sleeps, and remember the frequent feeds are completely normal, and it gets a lot easier in the following days.

Day three. By day three, your breasts will feel fuller, and may feel achy and tender. Your milk will have changed from a golden yellow colour and viscous consistency to a whiter colour and thinner consistency. This is often called ‘your milk coming-in’.

This later milk also contains lots of antibodies and other ingredients to ward off illnesses as well as providing all the food and drink your baby needs to grow and develop. For mums who’ve had a Caesarean Section, milk coming in may be delayed by a day or so.

According to from the HSE, it’s normal for breasts to feel full in the first week or two, but this will settle down when your body gets used to the supply and demand element of feeding.

Expressing feeds

If you need to express milk for your baby in the early days, the following table from the HSE website gives you an idea of what to expect:

Milk expressed in 24hrs - how much baby will get at a feed:
Day 1 - 7ml – 123ml - From a few drops to 5mls
Day 2 - 44ml – 335ml - From 5ml to 15ml
Day 3 - 98ml – 775ml - From 15ml to 30ml
*5ml = 1 teaspoon

How Do I Know If My Baby Is Hungry?

Babies give a lot of subtle cues that they are ready to feed, long before they begin to cry – from rooting with their mouths to making sucking noises and trying to suck on their fists, as well as little noises that say, ‘I’m working up to a cry’.

With breastfeeding, you can’t measure the milk in millilitres. You can measure the time the baby is feeding, but this varies a lot. The length of time an individual baby takes to feed will also vary from one feed to the next.

You’ll probably feed the baby from both breasts at one feeding. Nurse your baby from one breast until they pull themselves off or go to sleep, and then switch to the other side. Your baby will probably take less from the second breast, so for the next feeding start on that side. Many mothers make a note of which side they started on last. Most importantly, trust your instincts. 

Every Breastfeed Makes a Difference

This article has been sponsored by the HSE. Go to the HSE website for more information on breastfeeding. You can also read answers to common questions about breastfeeding and ask a question to the website’s panel of experts. 

About the Author

eumom team 


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