When my oldest daughter was a newborn, it felt like she breastfed 58 times a day. My mom would visit, and every 5 minutes (or so it seemed) she would say, “I think she’s hungry. You better feed her.” Exhausted and sore, I would look at my daughter with tears in my eyes and wonder how in the world she could possibly still be hungry when I just finished feeding her moments ago. Then, I would panic because my breasts felt completely empty, but she was still crying to nurse more. Clearly, she wasn’t getting enough milk…right?
What I didn’t understand, but (luckily) my mom did, was how important those first few weeks are at establishing your milk supply. It’s like boot camp for your boobs. To me, I felt like I was failing my daughter by not magically producing enough breast milk, when in reality, I was just in training. Feeding your baby on demand is called responsive feeding, and it works well especially in the newborn phase because the more often your baby eats, the more milk your breasts make. That’s why lactation consultants advise against supplementing with formula during this critical time, as it can decrease your supply.
This is all well and good, but when you’re a panicked and over-protective mother wondering if you’re starving your newborn, it can be difficult to wait patiently during this process of “establishing your milk supply” and hope it all turns out ok. You want to know, really know, that your baby is getting enough milk. So, let’s try to figure it out together. Sharpen your pencils for our assessment:
The Positives: 7 Signs Your Newborn Is Getting Enough Milk
1. Feeds at least 8-12 times in 24 hours
2. Comes off your breast on her own, when she’s done
3. Seems peaceful and satisfied after eating
4. Has healthy coloring
5. Has 1-2 wet diapers (pee) in the first 48 hours, and 5-6 wet diapers by 5 days old
6. Has a yellowy-mustard poop by 5 days old and starts to have 1-2 poops every 24 hours
7. Your breasts are softer and less full after nursing
The Negatives: 7 Signs Your Newborn Isn't Getting Enough Milk
1. Seems unhappy after eating (although this could also be a sign of acid reflux or dairy sensitivity)
2. Makes clicking noises while eating (a sign of improper latch)
3. Sleepy/has to be woken for feedings
4. Pee is dark yellow and smells strong
5. Has fewer than 5-6 wet diapers (pee) by 5 days old, or after 5 days old, has fewer than 5-6 wet diapers in 24 hours
6. Has fewer than 1-2 poops in 24 hours after 5 days old (only in the newborn phase)
7. Your breasts are still hard and full after nursing
How did you do? If your baby falls into some or most of the “negatives” category, your concerns may be warranted. Contact a lactation consultant and your pediatrician ASAP so they can help you develop a plan. If your baby mostly falls into the “positives” category, though, we still have more to discuss. 😊
So now maybe you’re saying to yourself, “Ok, fine, yes, she checks those boxes. I’m still worried she’s not getting enough milk.” Is it because…
She cries? Most babies do, for a whole lot of reasons. There may be something going on, or she might just be a crabby baby, but it’s likely not a hunger thing if she’s not experiencing any of the “negative” signs.
She doesn’t sleep through the night? Most babies don’t, at least not this early in the game. I never really believed the people who claimed their one week old was sleeping the night, although maybe my skepticism was just a coping mechanism since I wasn’t sleeping.
You’re looking for a reason to stop breastfeeding? Maybe you don’t want to admit it, even to yourself, but perhaps the added stress of breastfeeding is a bit more than you can handle right now. And that’s ok! The most important thing is that both you and your baby are healthy and fed, no matter how it happens.
I came across a statistic while I was breastfeeding that said on average, babies remove only 67% of the milk their mother has available—they eat until fullness, not until the breast is emptied. How about that! I tucked this little nugget of information away and found comfort and some semblance of control from it, and I hope you will, too. <3
About Katie Stansberry
Katie Stansberry is a work-from-home mom of two sweet girls and the creator of Breastfeeding Bliss. After struggling at the beginning of her breastfeeding journey, she wanted to create a happy place where breastfeeding moms could find practical tips, positive inspiration, and the newest and best breastfeeding products. On her "Back to Bliss" breastfeeding blog, she shares her personal stories and tips for making breastfeeding an easier and more enjoyable experience.