How to tell if your baby is getting enough breastmilk
Parents, you're amazing. The first months with a new baby can be a full-on roller coaster. You’re getting to know your baby, learning new skills, and adapting to a new normal; throw hormones and sleep deprivation into the mix, and it’s pretty normal for anxieties and lots of questions to come up.
One of the worries we hear often from breastfeeding parents is, “Is my baby getting enough milk?” or “How can I tell if my baby is getting enough milk?” Here are some straightforward ways you can feel reassured that breastfeeding is going well for you and your child. These signs will be most useful for parents of newborns, 1 month olds, 2 month olds and 3 month olds.
6 signs your baby is getting enough breastmilk while nursing
- You can hear your baby swallowing while they’re nursing.
- Breastfeeding is mostly comfortable for you after some initial soreness or tenderness.
- Your breasts feel softer after your baby nurses, without the tightness, firmness or leaking you feel before nursing.
- Your baby nurses often, seems relaxed and satisfied after nursing and sleeps between feedings. We’ve heard this magical state called “milk-drunk” and we couldn’t agree more.
- Pee! Since babies are getting nutrition AND hydration from breast milk, pee is another good indicator that babies are getting enough milk. By day five, infant pee should be very pale yellow or colorless in the diaper and you want to see five-plus wet diapers a day.
- Poop! Pooping is a great sign that your baby’s digestive system is at work.
What's normal baby poop in the first month?
Poop is a great indicator that your baby is digesting food. But baby poop can be well, weird. Here's what baby poop should look like in the first month or so for breastfed babies.
- In first two days of your new kiddo’s life they should have one or two sticky, blackish poops (they’re called meconium.)
- On days three and four baby poops should start changing color, they’ll be greenish, yellow, orange or brown. Anywhere in this range of colors is okay! But call your health care team if poops are black, reddish or whiteish.
- By day five poops should be yellow-gold, loose and contain small sesame-seed sized flecks. (Fun fact: they’re breastmilk curds.)
- Most tiny kiddos poop a lot, often they’ll have a poop with every feed. Some breastfed babies poop less often, even as little as once every four or five days. As long as baby’s poo is soft and loose, you’re a-okay. Pro-parenting tip: wait until AFTER a feed to change diapers, nothing like a relaxing nursing-sesh to inspire a baby to poop.
Why does my baby want to eat all day or all night long?
Your baby may seem hungry all the time. You may feel like all you do in the first months is feed your kiddo. That’s totally normal. Babies have teeny stomachs and breastmilk digests quickly, so babies feed often to support their growth and development. New babies also want to be close to you, they’re reassured by your smell and your warm body, so “cluster feeding” where your baby has frequent, small feeds is also very normal in the first months.
And, we hate to say it, it’s also normal for your new little one to feed more at night. Your body produces a chemical called prolactin in the wee hours that boosts your milk production, so baby might enjoy that increased supply at night. It can take awhile, often 3-4 months, for your new baby to have anything close to a predictable sleep schedule. As a nursing parent, feeding and supporting a baby learning to sleep is a lot of work. If you can, this is the time to call in your family and friends to help out, so you have time to rest and take care of your needs too!
Signs you and your baby need breastfeeding support
If you still have concerns about your baby’s feeding, here are some indicators that you and baby might need some breastfeeding support:
- Your nipples are persistently sore, cracked or damaged. After some initial tenderness in the first week-ish. Breastfeeding should be pretty comfortable for you. If your nipples feel like they’re constantly being abused and you start to dread the pain of breastfeeding, it’s a sign that your kiddo needs some help with the way they latch on to the breast to feed.
- Your nipples are flattened or deformed after a feed. Same as above, if your baby’s latch is messing with the shape of your nipples, they’re probably not feeding well.
- Your kiddo has less than eight feeds in 24 hours. Super-sleepy babies might seem amazing, but if your baby is eating less than eight times a day, they’re not getting the nutrition they need.
- Your baby isn’t peeing enough. While newborns in the first few days of life may only have two to four wet diapers. If your baby has less than five very wet diapers a day after five days of life, it’s time to call your pediatric care team.
- Your baby’s poop isn’t soft and loose. There’s a big variation in newborn poop habits, some babies may poop with every feed, some my only poop once a week! The best sign of healthy baby poop is that it’s soft, loose and some form of greenish, orangish or brownish. If your breastfed baby’s poop is hard or pasty OR it’s black, red or white in color. Call your pediatric provider.
- Your baby is arching away from your breast or struggling in your arms during feeds. Confusingly, this is usually a sign of either too much milk or too little milk, so see a lactation specialist to help figure this out.
Where to get help with breastfeeding your new baby
Breastfeeding can be tough starting out. Historically, breastfeeding folks were supported, helped and educated by their families and community elders - so don’t feel like you have to learn everything about breastfeeding alone. There are a few great ways to get breastfeeding support:
- A lactation consultant can give you one-on-one help to troubleshoot breastfeeding issues and ensure your baby is feeding well. Lactation folks are certified by the International Board of Certified Lactation Consultants and usually have IBCLC following their name. Here in Portland, we love the folks in OHSU’s Lactation department.
- A nursing group like La Leche League can provide community, support and normalization of weird baby habits in the early days. They also have resources for transgender and nonbinary nursing or chest-feeding parents. And, here in Oregon, the Nursing Mother's Council can connect you with resources like free peer mentors to answer questions.
- Most modern parents we know do some anxious midnight Googling at least once on their breastfeeding journey. KellyMom isn’t the prettiest site around, but it has exhaustive resources for breastfeeding folks written by certified lactation experts. And remember, the internet is wonderful, but it can also be full of inaccurate and misleading information. If you have concerns, however trivial, your pediatric team can be a resource to answer questions and/or help you find the support you need.