Breastfeeding is tricky for many reasons. One of them being that you truly have no idea how much milk your baby is getting. When feeding with a bottle, there is a clearly marked indicator of exactly how many ounces of milk were in there to begin with and whether or not the bottle gets completely emptied or has a bit remaining afterward. When breastfeeding, however, there is a whole lot more guesswork involved. So, whether breastfed or bottle-fed, how do you know if your baby is eating as much as they’re supposed to?
What are signs to look for that my baby is eating enough?
You should expect to see 4-6 wet diapers in a 24-hour period. If you’re truly worried, it’s not a horrible idea to keep a tally somewhere.
Regular bowel movements for infants is considered anywhere from once a day to once a week, sometimes even up to ten days! Because of this wide range, it is recommended to rely more on the urine output numbers than the counting of bowel movements.
Baby’s weight dips slightly within a few days of birth. This is normal – losing about 7-10% of their weight in this short amount of time – because babies are born with excess fluids in them that they are able to get rid of soon after. The large indicator of a baby’s healthy weight gain is their two-week weight. By two weeks, pediatricians expect the baby’s weight to be back up to – or exceed - the original birth weight. If this has not been achieved, it is the biggest indicator that baby is likely not getting enough to eat.
If baby sleeps well and is alert when awake, it is a good sign that he/she is eating enough.
If your baby is relaxed and content after a feeding, chances are, they just ate enough to fill them up and make them feel satisfied.
Between feedings, breasts firm up as they get ready for another meal. If your breasts feel softer and looser after a feeding, they likely were sufficiently emptied. Along with this breast analysis is the recognition of a good latch. There shouldn’t be pain during the entire feeding, a little bit in the first few seconds, probably, but not much longer than that. If pain is still felt after letdown, there’s a chance your baby isn’t latched on properly which could result in them not eating enough.
What are signs to look for that my baby is not eating enough?
- Not producing enough wet or dirty diapers
- Not gaining weight at the right pace
- Seems hungry often
- Excessive fussiness or crying
- Does not seem satisfied after feedings
What can be done to help my baby eat more?
- Weight checks
- A visit or two with a lactation consultant
- Pumping (to stimulate more milk production)
- Milk supply assistance (like oatmeal or Fenugreek)
- Feeding baby after a nap so they take a full feeding (rather than to sleep)
- Supplement with formula if exclusively breastfeeding