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How Do I Know if My Baby is Getting Enough Milk?

How Do I Know if My Baby is Getting Enough Milk?
When I began nursing my firstborn, I had so many very basic questions. One of those was how do I know if my baby is getting enough milk? It seems like such a simple question, yet you can’t see how much milk is getting into baby when you nurse, so how do you know? You sit there in the hospital counting how many minutes they’ve been nursing, filling out the feeding log and wondering if half-hearted “sleep nursing” minutes count. What you really want to know, however, is if your baby is getting enough milk?   

What Goes in Must Come Out
In the beginning, your primary way of gauging whether your baby is getting enough milk is how much is coming out the other side. It’s simple and effective. JoAnne, one of our contributors who also works on a hospital lactation team, says the rule of thumb is baby should have as many wet diapers in 24 hours as the number of days your baby is old. For example, on day 3 there should be at least 3 wet diapers. There is a reason they have you fill out all those feeding/wet/poop logs at the hospital! For more detailed information on the number of wet and dirty diapers you should be expecting each day of babies first week check out this article.

Listen for Swallowing
I loved this tip as a new mom. Once your milk comes in (about three days in), you should be able to hear your baby swallow every 2-3 sucks. It has to be really quiet for you to be able to hear this, but I soon found that I could tell when let-down was happening by listening to how frequently my son was swallowing. No, it doesn’t tell you if your baby is getting enough. It does help you psychologically, though, because you know they are getting something!     

Satisfied while Nursing
Babies who are getting enough milk are typically content while nursing. If your baby is anxious and frustrated while nursing or always acting hungry or on edge even though you are nursing on demand, it may be time to see a lactation consultant.

Weight Gain
Weight gain is the way to see overall trends in nursing. After that first initial weight drop in the hospital, the pediatrician will be looking for steady weight gain. If you do end up seeing a lactation consultant some of them use really accurate scales that they use to actually measure how much milk your baby gets in a feeding by weighing your baby before and after nursing. Even a good quality bathroom scale is not accurate for this trick, so unfortunately it doesn’t work at home. I did have a baby scale, though, which are good enough to see weekly trends, and with my first and I enjoyed being able to see his weight creeping up each week. With my second I just watched to make sure the clothes were getting smaller each week!

Get Help Early
Opposite of what you might think when a newborn doesn’t get enough calories for a few days they tend to get less energetic and less interested in eating which causes your milk supply to go down which means the baby is getting even fewer calories resulting in a smaller appetite and an even lower milk supply. If you see signs of this spiral, it’s time to see a lactation consultant right away. Aimee was struggling with nursing her first baby and had quite the experience seeing her first lactation consultant. A heavy-weight, grandmotherly lady with oversized, large-rimmed glasses hanging on her nose scooped up the 2-day old baby, sandwich-squeezed Aimee’s exposed breast and attached the baby in one fell swoop! Aimee was shocked, to say the least! But this lactation consultant knew exactly what she was doing! In one short hour together, all of Aimee’s nursing woes were addressed and she went on to many years of successful nursing thanks to several key tips from that session.

Don’t Give Up
Give nursing a chance to work. Go see someone to help get things back on track if you need to. Lactation consultants are wonderful!   In the old days when families were bigger and nursing was the norm, there were so many mothers around to answer questions. Now I feel that it can be pretty challenging for moms starting nursing for the first time. I was blessed to have my mom who has nursed eleven babies to answer questions, and I still called a lactation consultant that first week for a phone consult! Lindsay, mom of eight, encourages moms to give nursing at at least 2 weeks before you start thinking it just isn’t going to work. Remember that the first couple weeks are the hardest. Sometimes just hanging on one more week gives you and your baby enough time to figure things out.

Mommy Medicine is a group of moms that love sharing tricks, tips and strategies with our fellow moms. So send us your mommy questions you would like to see as the subject of a blog. We would love to hear from you!  Subscribe here to receive posts straight to your inbox!

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (9/22/2018)  Mac’s Photo Site (Flickr)

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