How to know your baby is getting enough milk

This is probably the biggest concern amongst breastfeeding Mothers and is frequently the reason why formula is introduced.

Breastmilk is nutritionally the healthiest option for both Mother and baby. Although breastfeeding may take time to establish it generally becomes second nature and the health benefits hugely outweigh that of formula milk.

As a Mother a natural fear is that her baby is not getting enough milk to put on weight and grow properly. Mothers therefore feel the need to know how much milk their baby is getting and whether it’s enough for their development.

So here’s how to tell a baby’s getting enough breastmilk:

  1. Output – Your babies wet and dirty nappies are a great indication that they’re getting the food they need. Once your milk comes in and your baby’s stools have turned yellow, they should be having two or more dirty nappies in a 24 hour period. Your baby should also be doing 6-8 wee’s in this time. Occasionally babies poo less and if everything else is normal then there’s no need for concern.
  2. Weight – Your baby will be weighed on day 5 and then again on day 10. To begin with your baby might loose up to 10% of their birth weight, which is normal, but that should be re-gained by day 10. Baby’s should then continue to gain weight and roughly follow the centile they were born on. Remember this is only a guide so if your baby’s weight fluctuates between centile’s but all other elements of feeding are good then there’s no need for concern.
  3. Behaviour – Your baby will generally feed at the breast for periods of 20 – 60 mins. This may vary for some baby’s. Feed times reduce as your baby gets older and more efficient at feeding. Your baby should pull themselves off the breast and fall asleep or appear contented afterwards. Some babies stay at the breast just for comfort.
  4. Frequency – Baby’s should wake up naturally and give cues for feeding. They feed from 8 – 12 times in a 24 hour period. This is around every 2-3 hours, with some babies cluster feeding in the evening and going up to 4-5 hours without a feed at night. Remember every baby is different.
  5. Sleep – Newborn babies can sleep up to 16 hours in a 24 hour period and that’s normal. Some babies are awake longer. Time spent awake increases as your baby gets older.

Indications your baby may need more breastmilk:

  1. Output – If, after day 5, your baby’s poo is green or baby is doing less than 6 wee’s and not having any dirty nappies.
  2. Weight – If your baby has lost over 10% of their birth weight or doesn’t put birth weight back on after 14 days.
  3. Behaviour – If your baby is constantly feeding and never seems satisfied or if your baby is always sleeping and doesn’t wake up for feeds.
  4. Appearance – If your baby has yellow in the skin, whites of their eyes or in their mouth, this indicates jaundice. Although mild cases can be a normal physiological process, high levels of jaundice can be dangerous and must be treated. If your baby is also sleepy, not waking for feeds, hard to rouse or looks dry around the mouth, you should inform your community Midwife or take your baby back to hospital to be checked.
  5. If you have any concerns about your baby not getting enough breastmilk, there are many ways you can increase your milk supply or help your baby get more from your breasts. You do not have to give your baby formula.

Seek professional help from either; your hospitals breastfeeding support team, a recommended lactation consultant or your Midwife.

If you have immediate concerns over your baby’s health then take them straight to A&E. Some symptoms and behaviours could indicate an underlying medical problem.