New breastfeeding moms often wonder if their baby is getting enough breast milk. Unlike formula or expressed milk placed into a bottle, there are no measurement lines on our breasts to tell us how much our baby drank.
Even though you can’t see how much milk your body produces, the good news is that the human body has been feeding babies this way for millions of years, so chances are your milk supply is just fine.
However, most new parents want to be entirely sure their baby is getting enough milk, and in some rare cases, your body may not be making enough milk. Read on to discover some full-proof methods of measuring your milk supply, tips on enhancing your supply, and things to look out for that might be causes for concern.
Ways You Know They’re Getting Enough Milk
- They seem satisfied. If your little one is popping off the breast with a content look on their face or even falling asleep while nursing, chances are you are supplying plenty of milk. A full belly means a happy baby. Babies who aren’t getting enough milk tend to be fussy, even after nursing, or may appear overly lethargic and sleepy all the time.
- They have plenty of wet diapers. Wet diapers are a good indicator that your little one is getting plenty to eat. Your newborn should have 6-10 wet diapers a day. Don’t worry about poop, as a breastfed newborn can go as long as 7-10 days without a bowel movement. However, when they do poop, the color of the stool is a good indicator of their health. Initial bowel movements are black and sticky and should phase into green and eventually a yellow-mustard color that is seedy or watery around day five or six.
- They’re swallowing. This one sounds like a no-brainer. However, some babies pop on the breast and suckle like a pacifier without getting much milk into their bellies. If you notice a lot of milk dribbling out of their mouth or they continue to suckle at a quick pace after the first few moments, your latch needs adjusting. If a baby is latched correctly, their rhythm should slow to a deep, steady pace. You should also be able to hear your baby swallowing and feel it if you place your hand on their back.
- They’re gaining weight. Another significant indicator that your baby is getting enough milk is that they’re gaining weight. A newborn typically loses 5-7% of their body weight in the first few days, but afterward, you should see a steady tick upwards. A good rule of thumb after the first few days is an average of 1 ounce per day for a total of 4-7 ounces (112-200 g) per week. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends newborn doctor visits 3-5 days after birth and at 1 month, 2 months, and 4 months. Some pediatricians recommend a two-week visit as well. So you’ll have a good idea whether or not your baby is gaining weight steadily.
Signs Your Baby May Not Be Getting Enough Milk
- They’re jaundiced
- They’re losing weight
- They fuss frequently and want to eat constantly
- They’re overly lethargic
- They’re exhibiting signs of dehydration
What Causes Low Milk Supply?
Most women can produce enough milk, and many misconceptions about what contributes to a low milk supply exist. For example, some women worry that if they have smaller breasts, they won’t be able to breastfeed. Others are concerned that short feed periods or not being able to pump a lot mean they’re not producing enough milk. These are all misconceptions about milk supply.
However, bottle and formula feeding in place of nursing sessions will decrease your milk supply if you’re not pumping during those times. In addition, a poor latch can contribute to a low milk supply because your baby isn’t getting as much milk as they need. Both bottle feeding and a poor latch signal your body to make less milk. The good news is, that moms can usually remedy this issue with the help of a lactation consultant.
Actual causes of low milk supply
- If you have a history of polycystic ovarian syndrome, diabetes, thyroid, or other hormonal disorders, you may experience a low milk supply.
- If you experience excessive blood loss (more than 500 ml/17.6 fl oz) during the birth or have retained fragments of the placenta, it can delay your milk supply.
- A rare medical condition called mammary hypoplasia causes insufficient milk-producing glandular tissue within the breast.
- You may have difficulty breastfeeding if you’ve had previous breast surgeries, mastectomy, breast implants, or breast trauma.
Tips to Increase Milk Supply
- Engage in more skin-to-skin contact. Skin-to-skin contact creates more of the hormone oxytocin, which can increase your milk supply.
- Use relaxation techniques to de-stress. Being overly stressed about breastfeeding can limit your milk supply. Try meditation or listening to relaxing music.
- Work with a lactation consultant. Lactation consultants have specialized training in breastfeeding and helping new moms and babies adjust. Even though breastfeeding is natural, that doesn’t mean it’s easy!
- Try more frequent feedings or pump between feedings to stimulate milk supply. The more milk your baby (or the pump) demands, the more your body will want to make.
Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural process that mothers share with their babies; however, like most things, you have questions when you’re a first-time parent. Rest easy in the knowledge that your body is probably producing enough milk, and use this article as a guide. And as always, when in doubt or have questions, contact your OBGYN or pediatrician for help and additional support.