Babies are amazing little beings, but the one thing they can’t do is speak. You have to look at other cues to determine whether or not you are producing enough breast milk and what you can do if you think you aren’t.
It goes without saying that a baby that is not getting enough breast milk can quickly become dehydrated and will experience what is called ‘failure to thrive’.
Check your breasts
If your breasts felt full and and firm before a feeding and after baby has fed, they are softer, you know that baby has emptied them of some of the milk.
Baby is happy
If baby is content—not fussy—and looks satisfied after nursing, it’s a good bet that they got enough to eat. A lethargic baby who is always crying might have many things going on, but the first bet is that they’re not getting enough to eat.
Baby is gaining weight
While all newborns lose a little weight in the days following the birth, they should gain it back and be back at their birth weight by the time they hit the ten day mark. While every baby is different, a gain of about 6-8oz a week of weight for the first 3-4 months is considered to be normal weight gain. It drops a little after the fourth month.
Baby is soiling enough diapers
While the baby is feeding on colostrum, for the first few days postpartum, they’ll produce fewer wet diapers (1-3 on average). That’s because colostrum is thicker and is processed differently in their bodies. When they start having regular breast milk, the number of wet diapers will jump, averaging about 6-9 per day.
Bowel movements in the first month number at 3 per day, on average, going from the very dark meconium directly after the birth to a light yellow brown. Once they hit a month old, the bowel movements will likely become less.
Signs that baby isn’t getting enough milk, which could signal low production
- Baby is losing weight 5 days postpartum, when they should be gaining at this point.
- Only a couple of wet diapers per day and bowel movements still remain fairly dark, 5 days postpartum.
- Dark urine, which is a sign that the urine is concentrated and baby is experiencing some level of dehydration. Pee should be clear or near to it. If it looks like apple juice in the diaper, it’s too concentrated. Look too to see if they have dry eyes and mouth, as these are also signs of dehydration.
- Pay close attention to whether baby is swallowing when breastfeeding. Some babies fall asleep at the breast when there is a low milk supply, so if they’re not actively eating, it could be a sign.
What you can do to boost your breast milk production
Breast milk production, much like the economy, is all about supply and demand.
- If your baby isn’t feeding a lot, the hormones that signal that more milk production is needed won’t trigger and you will produce less milk. Getting baby to nurse longer can help here. It might take longer but take your cues as to whether baby is full or not from them, not how your breasts feel. Baby will pull away when they’ve had enough. Also, if there is too much time between feedings, your supply won’t be as high as it would if baby nursed regularly. Feeding on demand, rather than according to a set schedule, is the best way to ensure that they are getting enough and your supply will be rejuvenated.
- Moms who choose to supplement with formula, which means baby will be less hungry when nursing, can diminish the supply. Similarly, if mom is using formula to supplement without at the same time using a breast pump on the same feeding schedule will find their supply lessens as well. Using a breast pump between feedings can jump start the milk supply, if it’s a little sluggish.
- Make sure you eat well and drink plenty of water. Your being well fed and hydrated makes all the difference to your supply.
Working with a postpartum doula or lactation specialist to ensure that your baby is getting a good latch and is positioned well for nursing is a great start. They can also monitor baby’s weight and, through long experience, help you to understand what’s normal and what’s not. It can be a huge relief to know that someone’s got your back in that way!