Reliable signs your baby is getting enough milk
One of the most common questions regarding breastfeeding is, “how do I know my baby is full when breastfeeding?”
Many women would love to be able to measure the amount of milk that their baby is receiving at the breast, but of course, that isn’t possible.
Sadly, some women have even given up breastfeeding with a previous baby because they thought that they weren’t producing enough milk.
We have become so used to a formula feeding culture, particularly in the UK, that we have lost confidence in the ability of our bodies to produce milk for our little ones – even though it is such a natural thing.
The good news is that there are three excellent, reliable signs that will boost your confidence and help you to know that your baby is getting enough milk. These are:
- The weight that your baby gains
- The number of wet nappies
- The amount and type of dirty nappies
The weight gain of your baby
It’s normal for many babies to lose a little bit of weight in the first few days (up to 7% is normal, sometimes 10%) but then to start regaining weight quickly, usually at a rate of 110 to 200 grams per week. You can also expect your baby to regain the birth weight generally by 10-14 days, although some babies may take a little bit of extra time.
It can be beneficial as a means to reassure you, to keep a good record of what’s happening with the weight gain, because that is a reliable sign of milk intake.
If you find that your baby isn’t gaining weight, look at the information on boosting your milk supply, which will give you plenty of strategies to put in place that can help to turn things around.
Understanding proper breastfeeding positioning will also be useful. If your baby’s position isn’t right, it’s likely he will not be draining the breast as well as he could be, and therefore may not be getting all the milk he needs.
Sometimes a minor difference in the positioning can make all the difference!
Your baby’s weight will also be plotted on a growth chart by your health professional, so this will give you a good gauge of how your baby is doing. It’s essential, however, to know that there will be flexibility regarding how your baby follows the centile lines.
Sometimes babies’ weight will drop a little bit and go up a little bit, but generally, you’d expect your baby to follow any given centile line, proportionally over time.
It’s also important to know that the rate of weight gain will change over time, with a reduction in the rate of weight gain after three months, meaning your baby is likely to have a decrease in average weight gain per week, compared to the early weeks.
This will be true as the year goes on, with less and less amount of weight gain per week.
As long as your baby is generally following the centile, that’s okay.
It can also boost your confidence to count how many wet nappies your baby is producing. After the birth, you can expect one wet nappy on the first day, two on the second, three on the third, but by the fourth day, the majority of babies will produce at least five or six as a regular amount per 24 hours (if wearing disposable nappies).
If your baby has cloth nappies, you can expect a minimum of six to eight wet nappies in 24 hours. If you want to gauge how heavy a wet nappy would be, add three tablespoons of water to one nappy. That will give you a good gauge of what a heavy wet nappy feels like, and you would expect your baby to produce that amount of nappies, as a minimum, as the weeks pass.
When do breastfed babies need water?
Once you have started solids, around the six-month mark, you can offer your baby an open lidded cup. You can offer expressed milk or sips of water, but this is not always necessary – as long as you are providing the breast whenever your baby wants, alongside solid food.
At times your baby may go a couple of days without pooing, but you should certainly expect the days’ worth in that nappy! Most babies, however, will have dirty nappies every day for the first 4-6 weeks.
It’s important to know that for most babies, the pattern of pooing changes around the 4th or 5th week, maybe six weeks.
Just when you think you know what to expect with the pooing pattern, your baby may suddenly go for a few days without actually doing a dirty nappy! Many women get upset and worried about this, understandably.
Some breastfeeding mothers have rushed their baby to the GP or A&E department at their local hospital because they believed that something was medically wrong with their baby or that the baby was constipated.
Please be assured that it’s quite normal for breastfed babies to change this pooing pattern suddenly. However, when they do their next poo, expect it to be a big one!
Look at the information on normal breastfeeding patterns, which discusses some less reliable signs that cause many women to lose confidence in breastfeeding, and especially regarding milk supply.
Have a good look at those things so that you can boost your knowledge and your confidence in this area.
So hopefully, the next time you ask yourself, “how do I know my baby is full when breastfeeding?”, you’ll know to look out for these three sure signs.
Review dates, references & further resources
Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022
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