The most common question I hear from new breastfeeding moms is, “How do I know if my baby is getting enough to eat?" Lactation consultant Michelle Carlson, RN, IBCLC, shares how you can tell with your new baby:
I have a simple answer to that question: Count the diapers! If your baby is getting enough to eat, he or she will be eliminating appropriately.
Use this guideline to know whether your baby is getting enough to eat:
Day 1 – One wet diaper and one dirty diaper
Day 2 – Two wet diapers and one dirty diaper
Day 5 – Five of each
Day 7 – Six to eight of each
When breastfeeding, the stool in “dirty” diapers will be the color of light yellow mustard and might look like it has seeds in it. This is normal.
Track weight gain
Another way to know that your baby is getting enough to eat is through weight gain. Breastfed babies usually lose 7 to 10 percent of their birth weight. Your baby should start gaining weight by day 7 and be back to his or her birth weight between days 10 and 14. After that your baby should gain 5 to 7 ounces a week.
When to call your doctor
If your baby loses more than 10 percent of his or her birth weight, call your pediatrician. And be sure to schedule an appointment with your pediatrician for a new baby checkup within the first three days of returning home from the hospital with your baby.
Why does my baby eat so often?
In the first few days you might be concerned that your baby doesn’t eat much at each sitting and therefore needs to eat often. That’s by design, and there are two reasons for it.
First, after giving birth your milk comes in slowly. In fact, the first few days you will have only a few drops to offer your baby.
Second, your baby’s tummy is small—about the size of an almond. By day 10, his or her tummy will have grown to the size of a walnut, and your milk production will have grown too. By days 3 to 5 your breasts should start to get full, you will hear your baby swallowing and your breasts will be softer after feeding.
Another reason your baby will eat often is because breastfed babies digest their food more quickly than those on formula. That’s because most formula contains cow’s milk, which is harder to digest than breast milk, so it sits in the stomach longer. Most breastfed babies need to eat eight to 12 times in a 24-hour period, or about every 2 to 3 hours, until you start to introduce solids. This can make breastfeeding feel like a full-time job, but it may be the most satisfying job you ever have. That’s because breastfeeding offers many benefits that protect your baby for years to come.
What can I do to help my baby eat more?
Frequent skin-to-skin contact is one of the best ways to help your baby get the hang of breastfeeding. Many moms do this in the hospital immediately after giving birth, but I strongly recommend continuing the practice at home for 6 to 8 weeks. Skin-to-skin contact goes hand-in-hand with breastfeeding because it helps your baby smell your milk, so he or she will be more likely to latch onto your breast.
Skin-to-skin has other benefits too, such as regulating your baby’s heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, temperature and oxygen level. Don’t overlook this powerful tool to help your baby transition from the womb to the outside world. Being skin-to-skin with you, or your partner, will help your baby gain weight, grow and thrive.
Get help and support close to home
You’re invited to attend our Breastfeeding Support Group, where you can bring your baby and meet other moms. A lactation consultant leads the discussion. We offer morning and evening sessions each Wednesday.
For breastfeeding support services, click here or call:
Lake Health Lactation Center
Monday-Friday, 8 am - 4:30 pm
24/7 Breastfeeding Helpline