Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
Updated December 2015
Photo: Suzie Blake
How do you tell if your newborn baby is getting enough milk?
Fortunately there are several ways if you know what to look for.
Plenty of dirty diapers is a really good sign. During the first two days, while your baby is receiving your immunity-boosting colostrum, his poops will be greenish-black tarry meconium.
From day 3 onwards expect 3–5 poops (at least the size of a quarter or 2p coin) per 24-hours. Some babies have less frequent but larger poops from about 6 weeks.
Encourage your baby to breastfeed for as long and as often as he seems interested. Offer both breasts—watching and listening for swallowing will help you judge when he’s ready to switch.
If he only wants one side, just start on the other side next time. Well-drained breasts make milk faster, so the more often you breastfeed, the more milk you will produce and the more milk your baby will get. You’ll make less milk if you breastfeed less often.
In the early weeks, a baby needs to nurse about every 2–3 hours, or at least 8–12 times in a 24-hour period, including some feeds at night.
If your baby sleeps a lot rather than feeding every 2–3 hours, you may need to wake him to nurse. This is particularly important if he has jaundice or isn’t gaining enough weight. If this is difficult or he is lethargic, do ask your midwife or health care provider to check that all is well.
Newborns often lose up to 7% of their birth weight in the first few days. Once your milk production increases, usually on day 3–4, expect your baby to begin regaining his lost weight. Most babies regain their birth weight by 10–14 days old. Your baby will grow at his own rate, and a growth chart will indicate how he is doing.
Once breastfeeding is going well and your baby is growing normally it’s fine to weigh less often. Be guided by your baby and talk to your health professionals if you are anxious about your baby’s growth pattern.
Your baby’s weight may increase steadily and so follow a single percentile line on the chart, or rise faster, crossing the percentile lines. A gradual drop from one percentile line to the next (or the equivalent distance) is unlikely to be a problem unless his weight is low for his age. Heavier newborns often show ‘catch-down’ growth—meaning they gain weight steadily even though they gradually drop against the percentile lines.
Dropping against the chart is more of a worry for lower weight babies. Seek help quickly if your baby isn’t gaining weight well.
Look at your baby
You may instinctively know how your baby is doing. Ask yourself: does he have good color? Is he nursing vigorously? Is his skin firm? Does he look healthy and seem active and alert? Is he meeting developmental milestones?
Your milk is perfect for your baby.
A breastfeeding solution is usually possible if your baby is gaining weight slowly and needs more milk. If you have concerns, call our Helpline to speak to an LLL Leader. Mothers in your local La Leche League group can offer support and encouragement.