Is my baby getting enough breastmilk?
What are the signs of adequate breastmilk intake and how to know if your baby is getting enough
By Emma Biggar, IBCLCLast updated 20th of August 2019
When a baby is exclusively breastfed, it can be very difficult to tell the exact volume of breast milk they are consuming. Many mother can become concerned, worrying whether their baby is getting enough breastmilk. Ideally a baby will have 8-12 feeds per 24 hours but there is a wide range of normal and frequency still doesn't provide us with any guarantees about volume. The volume of breastmilk a healthy breastfed baby will consume from each feed varies from one feed to the next. This is normal. Rather than focusing on your baby's intake, it is more useful to focus on their output. The following is a checklist of signs that indicate your baby is likely getting enough milk.
Plenty of wees
- From about 5 days after birth you should expect at least 6 very wet cloth nappies or 5 very wet disposable nappies in a 24 hour period. The urine should be clear or very pale at best without any odour. If you notice your baby's urine is strong, dark or quite smelly, it could suggest that your baby needs more breastmilk. Don't be alarmed if you notice a rusty, orange-red stain on the nappy in the first few days after birth as this is likely just the salts of uric acid in the urine. However, if you see this after day 4 it could be a sign that you need to seek further support.
Plenty of poos
- There is quite a variation of normal infant poo. The first bowel motion is noticeably black and sticky as they pass the meconium. By day 2 it tends to soften while remaining a dark colour. The days following this their bowel motions change from greenish-brown and lighten to a mustard-yellow. Young babies tend to poo frequently, at least 3 or more times each day. Their poo tends to be soft or runny. An older baby may have less frequent bowel movements but their stools should still be soft. If you notice your babies poo is formed or hard this could suggest they need more breastmilk.
- A healthy thriving baby will continue to grow in some form. This might be increased weight, their head circumference gets bigger or they grow in length. You might notice them going up in clothing sizes. These may not all happen at once but each are all reassuring measurements of growth.
Alert and contented
- It's normal for all babies to have periods of crying, fussiness or cluster feeding each day. The "arsenic" or "witching hour" is common in most households. It is also developmentally normal to go through phases of being extra clingy and fussy during Wonder Weeks. If your baby is generally happy and contented "most of the time" then this is another reassuring sign they are getting enough breastmilk.
Good muscle tone and skin colour
- A thriving baby will have good muscle tone, their limbs should only be floppy when they're deeply relaxed asleep as you commonly seen after a breastfeed. Their skin should spring back if you were to pinch it and not look loose as if your baby does "fit" their skin.
If you are ever unsure you can always seek help, even if only to reassure yourself of the wonderful job you are doing or for guidance on things you can do to optimise your breastfeeding and your baby's milk intake.
Emma Biggar is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), Registered Nurse and mother of three. Emma provides in-home breastfeeding and early parenting support to families in the Eastern and South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Click here to read more about the types of services available or here to visit the online booking page. Contact Emma by email here or visit her website or Facebook page.