One thing that I found hard about breastfeeding is that I couldn't know exactly how much my babies were getting. Whenever my first baby cried, I was always worried it was because she needed more milk. I know there are many women out there that produce an insane amount of very creamy milk, but there are also many women out there just like me who have a milk production much less impressive. So, when that is the case, how do you tell if baby needs more?
We supplemented with formula from day one of Penny's life for a number of reasons. The main one being she absolutely would not latch. She mostly drank formula from a bottle
in the hospital and I didn't have the experience or understanding to ask for a pump to pump whenever she didn't nurse from me. So my milk supply just didn't get the memo to come in for a while. After that, I felt like I was playing catch up, but couldn't really actually catch up. I was constantly watching for the signs of whether or not baby girl was getting enough milk.
Here are the most common signs to help you stress less!
Your baby should be following a suck, swallow pattern when they nurse. Watch their throat area to see that they are swallowing after every suck. Once there is a letdown, If they are sucking rapidly without swallowing, pulling off off the breast to cry out, or falling asleep at the breast constantly, there isn't enough milk there to satisfy them.
Baby acts satisfied after feeding
A satisfied and happy baby after feeding time is a really good sign that your baby is getting exactly what they need! If your baby finishes nursing and is restless, crying, or still rooting at the breast, they are more than likely still hungry. A baby that isn't getting enough food may seem lethargic, overly tired, and may want to nurse more often than every 2.5 to 3 hours. It is a good assumption that they aren't getting enough milk.
Wet and soiled diapers
In the beginning, your baby should wet 6-10 diapers a day and soil about 3. Your baby's stool should change from black and tacky to green by day three, and then be that potent mustardy yellow by day five. The stool changing shows that they are getting enough milk and their bodies are getting used to digesting it. It will also start to look much more watery and almost like it has little seeds in it. The simple science here is if they aren't wetting enough, they aren't getting enough.
This is one to consult your doctor on and combine with the other signs. If your baby is losing weight continually, since they don't need to lose weight, they are not getting enough food. When it comes to weight gain, your doctor can weigh in on this one. Some babies gain much quicker than others and some babies are more petite than others, so don't just compare your baby's weight to your friend's baby that is almost the same age! If you are concerned, most doctors offices will do "weight checks" in between usual well-check appointments.
At my office, you don't need an appointment for a weight check; you just pop in and a nurse will weigh baby for you, then print out their weight/growth chart. I did that a few times when I was worried!
Pump and feed
Pumping at a usual feeding time gives you the most accurate look at exactly how many ounces your baby is getting at a feeding! Be sure to pump as long as your baby would normally be nursing for, and get multiple letdowns rather than just stopping after the first one.
It has been said, and I believe it to be true, that some women don't letdown for the pump like they do when the baby actually nurses.
Keep that in mind if you feel like you aren't pumping much and consult a lactation specialist for a second opinion.
With my second, breastfeeding went great until it didn't. At her four-month check up, her weight was a bit of a concern, and about the same time she started to show other signs that she was hungry after nursing. We discovered that while I was making "enough" milk when viewing it by ounces, my milk did not have the caloric amount she needed. So at that point, I made the choice to completely wean her because nursing and supplementing just stressed me out. That does not make me ashamed at all and if you are ever in the same situation, you should not feel ashamed either! Fed is best!