How do I know my baby is full when breastfeeding?
Reliable signs your baby is getting enough milk
In my work with breastfeeding mothers, I find one of the most common concerns, is knowing whether your baby is getting enough milk. Many women have said to me that they 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.
Some have even told me that they gave up breastfeeding with a previous baby because they thought that they weren’t producing enough milk.
I feel that we have got 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 a natural thing.
The good news is that there are three really good reliable signs that will boost your confidence and help you to know that your baby is actually getting enough milk.
It’s normal for many babies to lose a little bit of weight in the first few days (up to 7% is seen as 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 of your babies may take a little bit of extra time.
It can be really helpful 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 supply which will give you plenty of strategies to put in place that can help to turn things around.
The info on positioning will also be useful – because if your baby isn’t positioned well, it is likely that he will not be draining the breast as well as he could be, and therefore may not 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 on how your baby is doing. It is important, however, to know that there will be flexibility in regard to how your baby follows the centile lines.
Sometimes babies will drop a little bit and go up a little bit but generally, you’d expect your baby to generally 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 3 months. This means that your baby is likely to have a reduction 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 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 go by.
In the first week, you can expect thick black, sticky, meconium poo to turn into a dark-brown colour, then dark green, then by the 4th or 5th day you would expect your baby to produce yellow, or mustard coloured poos. This is normal if your baby is breastfed.
So how much poo should your baby produce? By the 4th of 5th day after the birth, you can expect at least 2 to 4 two-pound coin size amounts (or the equivalent of that) over a 24 hour period. That would be a good gauge of milk intake.
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 also important to know that for most babies the pattern of pooing changes around the 4th or 5th week, maybe 6 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, understandably.
I’ve even known a number of breastfeeding mothers who told me that they rushed their baby to the GP or the accident and emergency 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 suddenly change this pooing pattern. However, when they do their next poo, expect it to be a big one!
I would like to encourage you to look at the information on Normal Patterns which talk about some less reliable signs, things that cause many of you to lose confidence in breastfeeding, and especially in regard to milk supply.
Have a good look at those things so that you can boost your knowledge and your confidence in this area.
Review dates, references & further resources
Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022
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