Got Enough Milk?
How to tell if you're one of the few women with a low breast-milk supply—and what you can do about it.
It's one of the most common questions among new breastfeeding moms: Is my baby getting enough milk? Not experiencing some uncertainty is difficult, since you can't actually see how much milk your body is producing, and, therefore, how much your newborn is getting. The good news? Most women do produce enough milk to nurse their babies successfully; it's estimated that only approximately 5 percent to 15 percent—or even less—of all breastfeeding mothers truly have a low milk supply.
Still, how can you know for sure that you're making enough? Read on for some surefire signs that your baby is thriving—as well as issues that can interfere with your milk supply and tips on what to do if you think there may be a problem.
Is Your Baby Getting Enough?
When you're breastfeeding, there's only one way to tell for certain that all is going well—look at the results:
He's swallowing When your baby first latches onto your breast, he will suck rapidly, which helps release the milk. Then he should progress into a deep, slow pulling motion as he swallows; you may not only feel this motion, but also see his jaw drop down and hear him as he does this. If your baby isn't getting enough milk, you may see him sucking rapidly but not swallowing slowly and rhythmically; he may also take long pauses while nursing or repeatedly fall asleep at your breast.
He's satisfied If your baby seems content and well fed after feeding sessions, all is likely going well. But a baby who appears overly lethargic—or, conversely, who is constantly screaming for food—may not be getting enough milk. "If a baby has many feedings that last longer than an hour or wants to nurse very often, with less than an hour between feedings, there may be a problem," says Susan Burger, M.H.S., Ph.D., I.B.C.L.C., a lactation consultant with New York-based Lactescence in the City.
He fills his diapers Your baby's diaper output is a reliable indicator that all is well. He should have at least six wet diapers by day six and four stools by day four. Stool color is also important: While the first bowel movements are typically black and sticky, they should be green by day three or four and yellow by day four or five. The consistency of the stools should also be seedy or watery.
He's gaining weight It's normal for your baby's weight to fluctuate a bit in the first days or week of life. A newborn may lose about 5 percent to 7 percent of weight by his third or fourth day and be perfectly fine, but if he has a weight loss of 10 percent or more, there could be a problem. By day 10, your baby should rebound to his birth weight.
If you suspect you aren't making enough milk or your baby isn't gaining weight properly, call your doctor and a lactation consultant right away.