Breast-feeding: How to gauge success

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Breast-feeding: How to gauge success

When you're breast-feeding, you can't measure the amount of milk your baby drinks during each feeding — but that's OK. You can watch for reassuring signs that your baby is getting enough to eat.

Cover the basics

When you're breast-feeding, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my baby gaining weight? Steady weight gain is often the most reliable sign that a baby is getting enough to eat. Although most babies lose weight soon after birth, it's typically regained — and then some — within 10 days to two weeks. Your baby will be weighed at each checkup. If you're concerned about your baby's weight, make an appointment to have your baby weighed.
  • How often does my baby breast-feed? Most newborns breast-feed eight to 12 times a day — about every two to three hours. By six weeks after birth, your baby will probably begin to go longer between feedings. During growth spurts, your baby might take more at each feeding or want to breast-feed more often. Trust your body's ability to keep up with the increased demand. The more often your baby nurses, the more milk your breasts produce.
  • Is my baby swallowing? If you look or listen carefully, you might be able to tell when your baby is swallowing — usually after several sucks in a row. If your baby swallows quietly, you might only notice a pause in his or her breathing.
  • How do my breasts feel? When your baby is latched on successfully, you'll feel a gentle pulling sensation on your breast — rather than a pinching or biting sensation on your nipple. Your breasts might feel firm or full before the feeding, and softer or emptier afterward. If breast-feeding hurts, ask your baby's doctor or a lactation consultant for help.
  • What about my baby's diapers? By the fifth day after birth, expect your baby to have six to eight wet diapers a day and at least three or more bowel movements a day. The stool will be dark and sticky for the first couple of days, eventually becoming seedy, loose and golden yellow. After the first month, the volume of each bowel movement increases and the frequency decreases.
  • Does my baby seem healthy? A baby who seems satisfied after feedings and is alert and active at other times is likely getting enough milk. Also look for a healthy skin tone.

Trust your instincts

You know your baby best. If you sense something isn't right, contact your baby's doctor — especially if your baby:

  • Isn't gaining weight
  • Isn't wetting six to eight diapers a day or having regular bowel movements
  • Passes urine that's deep yellow or orange or stools that are hard and dry
  • Is consistently fussy after feedings
  • Seems sleepy all the time
  • Has yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Isn't interested in breast-feeding
  • Spits up forcefully or more than a small amount at a time

Remember, every baby is unique. You might be surprised by your baby's feeding patterns. As long as your baby grows and develops normally, however, you can be sure that you're meeting his or her nutritional needs.

Last Updated: 2011-08-27
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