How Do I Know if My Baby is Getting Enough Milk?

In recognition of World Breastfeeding Week, lactation consultant and midwife Katie James answers one of the most common questions new mothers have.

Your breasts make milk based on a system known as supply and demand. The more your baby breastfeeds (demands) the more milk your breasts produce (supply).

Sometimes a mother may ask, “Can my baby really be hungry again?”

The answer is yes.

In their first month of life, if your baby is awake they are usually awake for food. Babies may have times when they like to be held or moved around but usually if they are awake in the first month it’s good to offer them the breast.

As they grow and get into their second and third month of life you may find your baby’s feeding pattern changes and settles down. They will have longer periods of being awake to play and interact with you; but in this early phase feeding is key.

Breastfeeding patterns of young babies

A recent study looked at the breastfeeding patterns of babies 1 to 6 months of age. The results showed big differences in how often babies’ breastfeed during this stage.

The results showed, on average:

  • Babies have between 4 and 13 breastfeeding sessions every 24 hours
  • Babies drink between 54ml and 234ml at each feed
  • Babies drink on average 800ml per day
  • 2/3 of babies feed during the night

Comparing how frequently your baby feeds to someone else’s baby often causes stress. We all have different amount of milk producing cells, which means our breasts hold different quantities at each feed. In addition, breastmilk often has different levels of fat at any one feed, which also impacts on how often bub needs to feed.

No two women are the same and nor are their babies’ feeding patterns.

Instead of counting feeds to work out how much milk your baby is getting, pay attention to how your baby is acting, and how your body feels.

  • Do your breasts feel softer after feeding?
  • Is your baby mostly happy and content?
  • Do you have to change at least five heavy wet and at least two dirty nappies every day? (Stools become less often from around four to eight weeks)
  • Does your baby settle after feeds? (It’s normal for most babies to need some help settling down)
  • Is your baby gaining weight well according to the growth charts?
  • Is your baby otherwise healthy?

If the answer is yes, then no matter whether your baby feeds frequently or your breasts have recently settled down and no longer feel full, you have great milk supply.

If the answer is no, it is best to visit your Maternal Child Health Nurse or Lactation Consultant for more support and helpful tips.

A friendly reminder

Remember there will always be days where the feeding ‘pattern’ you and your baby have settled into seems to fly out the window with your baby suddenly wanting to feed all the time.

These days will come and go. Babies go through many developmental growth spurts, and sometimes this may mean the world appears overwhelming to them as their brain develops. The best way for a baby to feel safe and nurtured, and to settle down is to seek out a breastfeed.

This is normal human development.

It doesn’t mean you are doing anything ‘wrong’ when it comes to breastfeeding. It just means your baby is breastfeeding to not only satisfy their hunger, but also to feel safe, nurtured, and boosted with those wonderful happiness inducing hormones.

The best thing to do is try and go with the flow. Breastfeed as much as your baby needs and know that this is just a normal phase. Within a few days things will settle down again.

Brought to you by Medela Australia
Written by Katie James, RM, MMid, IBCLC

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Lead image via Shutterstock