One of the most common concerns among breastfeeding mothers is whether or not the baby is getting the nutrition they need to thrive. Unlike bottle feeding, it is impossible to tell how much milk your baby is consuming while you are breastfeeding. As a result, this can lead to constant concern about the baby. Those concerns double when the normal course of breastfeeding intervenes and causes the mother not to feel as full or the baby to suckle more. There are a number of signs, though, to help you decide if your baby is getting the milk he needs to thrive.
During the first few days of feeding, your baby won’t be getting breast milk. He will be getting colostrum. Colostrum is a thick, yellowish substance that is rich in things the baby needs like antibodies and nutrients. You will actually be producing very little colostrum, but the baby needs very little. He will only take a teaspoon or so at a time. As a result, your baby will probably only have one to two wet diapers each day during the first few days. Once the milk comes in, though, this will change dramatically. The baby will get more milk during each feeding, and he should be producing six to eight wet diapers each day. Moreover, for the first several weeks, the baby will have about two bowel movements each day if he is getting the milk he requires to grow and develop normally. You can also tell if your baby is adequately hydrated if he wakes every two to three hours to eat. A baby who sleeps all the time may be dehydrated and should be evaluated by your pediatrician.
There are a few other signs, besides diapers and hunger that will help you determine if your baby is getting the milk he needs. In the first few months, the baby should nurse at least eight to twelve times during any given twenty-four hour period. The baby should be feeding for ten to twenty minutes each session. Moreover, you should actually be able to see and hear your baby swallow the milk. If you cannot, your baby is simply sucking, not getting any milk. After the fourth day of life, your baby should be gaining four to seven ounces each week if he is getting the milk he needs. Also, the baby should be alert and active. He should have a good skin color, and be growing at a normal rate.
If you have concerns that your baby is not getting enough milk, meet with your pediatrician. He or she may refer you to a lactation consultant if there are milk supply problems. If indeed there are supply problems, you might try to naturally increase your supply. There are a number of different ways to do this. You can start by encouraging your baby to breastfeed often. Allow him to choose the duration of the feeding session. If the baby slows during any give session, take the opportunity to switch breasts. You should also try to limit the use of a pacifier to ensure that all of baby’s sucking takes place at your breast.