Five ways to tell if your baby is getting enough milk from breastfeeding


Not sure if your baby is getting enough milk from breastfeeding? Here are five ways to tell:

Sucking and swallowing you can hear

This, in addition to actually seeing the milk in your baby’s mouth, is a good way to tell if a feeding session is successful. Watch frequently for wide jaw movements and listen carefully for consistent swallowing. See if you notice a strong, deep, pulling sucking motion. About 15 to 20 minutes of vigorous sucking on each breast, or 20 to 30 minutes on one side, is a sign of a good feeding.

Relaxed arms and hands after feedings

Things like rooting (a common reflex for newborns that prompts turning of the head and opening of the mouth), hand-to-mouth movements, kicking, waving arms-;basically lots of activity-;are signs of a hungry baby. A calm, relaxed state (relaxed hands and shoulders, even sleepiness) can indicate the baby is good and full for the time being. Another sign the baby is full is when he or she comes off the breast spontaneously and is content.

Remember, however, that babies are usually really sleepy during the first week or so and may not wake up often enough for feedings, so you may have to wake up your baby yourself. Sometimes, the baby may fall back asleep during a feeding. Contact your doctor right away if your baby is too lethargic to eat after you’ve tried several waking techniques, or is not eating at least eight times within a 24-hour period.

Softer breasts after feedings

To help prevent engorgement (when the breasts become swollen, hard and painful, making it difficult to breastfeed effectively), you should nurse regularly, on demand and at least 8 times a day. Don’t skip feedings, especially during those precious first few weeks. Make sure your baby is latched well and is emptying your breast effectively.

“You want to offer the baby one breast, let him feed for as long as he wants, take him off, try to burp him, and then offer him the other breast. If he wants it, great. If he doesn’t that’s ok, too,” says Melissa L. Droddy, Carroll Hospital lactation specialist. “You just want to rotate the side that you start with, so it doesn’t matter which side you end with.”

Droddy adds: “The first side is going to empty better, so it’s more important for you to rotate the breast that you start with than the one you end with.”

Plenty of wet and dirty diapers

If your baby isn’t having several stools per day, the typical pattern for newborns after the mother’s milk comes in, it’s a concern and you should contact your doctor or a lactation specialist about it. Some newborns stool after every feeding. There should be multiple wet diapers, too. Look for light yellow to clear urine.

“Is the baby gaining weight? Are they peeing and pooping? Those are the big things,” Droddy says.

Sufficient weight gain

Speaking of weight, know that babies generally lose a little weight in the first few days after birth and then begin to gradually gain it back. Ten percent is considered the acceptable maximum weight loss. You should have your baby’s weight checked regularly the first two weeks after birth. Tell your doctor if the baby hasn’t begun to gain weight by the fifth day after birth or hasn’t regained birth weight after two weeks.

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