You breastfeed your baby several times a day, but how do you know when they have eaten enough? After all, breasts aren’t marked off in ounces like bottles — and they certainly don’t have a nutrition label! Sometimes you just wish your baby could tell you when they’re full. In actual fact, they’re giving you little signals about their appetite all the time.
Here are six things to look for when breastfeeding to make sure your baby is getting enough breast milk:
- Keep an Eye on Baby’s Weight
The most important sign that a baby is getting enough breast milk is that they regain their birth weight after ten to fourteen days, and thereafter have a steady weight gain of about one ounce per day for the first several months.
How much milk do they need to do this? An easy way to work out your baby’s demands is to multiply their weight (in pounds) by three. That number is the total number of ounces of fluid your baby needs each day. Bear in mind that babies lose between 5 to 10 percent of their birth weight in the first week. After you leave the hospital, schedule a follow-up appointment with your paediatrician for a routine weight check to make sure you stay on track.
- Check Dirty Nappies
Babies often stool with each feed — up to 12 stools per day. On average, your baby should produce around six to eight pale, colourless wet nappies per day. They should also produce between two to five “breast milk stools” each day, characterised by “seedy, loose mustard-yellow stools. This is a sign of normal breastfeeding digestion by your baby. By the time they are 2 months old, your baby’s bowel movements will become less frequent and may happen less than once a day.
- Evaluate Baby’s Temperament
Just like adults; your baby may become tired after eating a big meal. After a feeding, your baby should appear satiated and satisfied. This is a sign your baby has eaten enough, and they may even drift off to sleep — relaxed and calm. Other signs your little one is eating well include either turning their head away or less enthusiastic sucking at the end of a feed.
- Listen to Your Body
The texture of your breasts can often reflect whether your baby is adequately draining the milk. After a feeding, you can usually notice if your breasts are softened. If your breasts remain firm after a feeding, it might be a sign that your baby isn’t getting enough milk. Massage your breasts before and after a feeding so you’ll know what’s normal for you.
- Watch Out for Warning Signs
Keep your eyes peeled for signals that your baby may be underfed. If your baby is fussy or cries after eating, feeds for 45 minutes or longer, has dark (the colour of apple juice or darker) or strong-smelling urine or is lethargic, they might not be getting enough breast milk.
- Provide Additional Vitamins When Necessary
Breast milk contains the perfect combination of water, essential fats, vitamins, minerals, proteins and carbohydrates for the first six months of life. However, you may still need to provide a few key nutrients for your baby. Vitamin D, important for absorbing calcium and phosphorus, is found in low levels in human breast milk, so it is a good idea to give your baby an oral vitamin D supplement (the recommended amount is 400 International Units per day, but always check with your pedestrian first). Mothers who are on a strict vegan diet (meaning no animal products, including milk and eggs) should also take a vitamin B12 supplement (no more than 2.6 micrograms per day).
While breastfeeding, stay calm and confident that your body can nourish your baby. However, if you’re worried that they’re not getting enough breast milk, there’s no shame in seeking help from an expert – that’s what they’re there for!