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Is my baby getting enough breast milk?

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Updated July 01, 2014

3. Urination. With six soaking wet (not just wet) diapers in a 24 hours hour period, after about 4-5 days of life, you can be sure that the baby is getting a lot of milk. Unfortunately, the new super dry “disposable” diapers often do indeed feel dry even when full of urine, but when soaked with urine they are heavy. It should be obvious that this indication of milk intake does not apply if you are giving the baby extra water (which, in any case, is unnecessary for breastfed babies, and if given by bottle, may interfere with breastfeeding). The baby's urine should be clear as water after the first few days, though an occasional darker urine is not of concern.

During the first 2-3 days of life, some babies pass pink or red urine. This is not a reason to panic and does not mean the baby is dehydrated. No one knows what it means, or even if it is abnormal. It is undoubtedly associated with the lesser intake of the breastfed baby compared with the bottle fed baby during this time, but the bottle feeding baby is not the standard on which to measure breastfeeding. However, the appearance of this colour urine should result in attention to getting the baby well latched on and making sure the baby is drinking at the breast. During the first few days of life, only if the baby is well latched on can he get his mother's milk. Giving water by bottle or cup or finger feeding at this point does not fix the problem. It only gets the baby out of hospital with urine which is not red. If relatching and breast compression do not result in better intake, there are ways of giving extra fluid without giving a bottle directly. Limiting the duration or frequency of feedings can also contribute to decreased intake of milk.

The following are NOT good ways of judging

1. Your breasts do not feel full. After the first few days or weeks, it is usual for most mothers not to feel full. Your body adjusts to your baby's requirements. This change may occur quite suddenly. Some mothers breastfeeding perfectly well never feel engorged or full.

2. The baby sleeps through the night. Not necessarily. A baby who is sleeping through the night at 10 days of age, for example, may, in fact, not be getting enough milk. A baby who is too sleepy and has to be awakened for feeds or who is “too good” may not be getting enough milk. There are many exceptions, but get help quickly.

3. The baby cries after feeding. Although the baby may cry after feeding because of hunger, there are also many other reasons for crying. Do not limit feeding times.

4. The baby feeds often and/or for a long time. For one mother every 3 hours or so feedings may be often; for another, 3 hours or so may be a long period between feeds. For one a feeding that lasts for 30 minutes is a long feeding; for another it is a short one. There are no rules how often or for how long a baby should nurse. It is not true that the baby gets 90% of the feed in the first 10 minutes. Let the baby determine his own feeding schedule and things usually come right, if the baby is suckling and drinking at the breast and having at least 2-3 substantial yellow bowel movements each day. If that is the case, feeding on one breast each feeding (or at least finishing on one breast before switching over) will often lengthen the time between feedings. Remember, a baby may be on the breast for 2 hours, but if he is actually breastfeeding (open-pause-close type of sucking) for only 2 minutes, he will come off the breast hungry. If the baby falls asleep quickly at the breast, you can compress the breast to continue the flow of milk . Contact the breastfeeding clinic with any concerns, but wait to start supplementing. If supplementation is truly necessary, there are ways of supplementing which do not use an artificial nipple .

5. “I can express only half an ounce of milk”. This means nothing and should not influence you. Therefore, you should not pump your breasts “just to know”. Most mothers have plenty of milk. The problem usually is that the baby is not getting the milk that is there, either because he is latched on poorly, or the suckle is ineffective or both. These problems can often be fixed easily.

6. The baby will take a bottle after feeding. This does not necessarily mean that the baby is still hungry. This is not a good test, as bottles may interfere with breastfeeding.

7. The 5 week old is suddenly pulling away from the breast but still seems hungry. This does not mean your milk has “dried up” or decreased. During the first few weeks of life, babies often fall asleep at the breast when the flow of milk slows down even if they have not had their fill. When they are older (4-6 weeks of age), they no longer are content to fall asleep, but rather start to pull away or get upset. The milk supply has not changed; the baby has. Compress the breast to increase flow.

by Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC

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  5. Breastfeeding Info
  6. Health and Growth
  7. Is Baby Getting Enough Milk While Breast Feeding?

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