Breastfeeding: 6 ways to be sure that your baby is getting enough milk

Our daughter is a bit over a week old and is nursing on demand. We are getting conflicting advice. The midwife says to allow her to feed when she wants to, finishing one breast and then offering the other. The health visitor says to limit feeds on both breasts to 15 minutes each. We are concerned that limiting feeds will be counterproductive. How do we know if our baby is getting enough milk?


Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Congratulations on your baby's birth! As new parents you do have reason to be concerned when you are receiving conflicting information about something as important as feeding your new little baby.

Though there are many ideas of the "best" way to begin breastfeeding, much of this information is based on personal bias, rather than research-based information. That doesn't mean the information you receive is incorrect. There are often no hard and fast rules. Each nursing couple needs to be looked at individually. Typically, there is more than one way to achieve the same goal -- a good nursing relationship.

Next: 6 ways to be sure your baby is getting enough milk

6 ways to know that your baby is getting enough milk

1. You and your baby are both comfortable. Difficulties with positioning and attachment can cause many problems. After the first few days, when some moms experience a bit of latch-on pain, breastfeeding should be comfortable. If you still have sore nipples, you need skilled one-on-one help so you can begin enjoying breastfeeding, and your baby can properly access your milk.

2. You nurse frequently. Newborns need to nurse at least 10 to 12 times in a 24-hour period. This works out to around every hour and a half to two hours -- about the time it takes for breastmilk to be digested. Newborns will often cluster their feeds in the evening -- wanting to spend much of their time at the breast. It is typical for newborns to have one four to five hour period of sleep, occurring during the day or at night. Some babies want to sleep for an extended period of time. Do not let your baby go for a long period without feeding. It is very important, especially at this time, to feed her regularly. Even if she's very sleepy still wake her about every two hours during the day.

3. Your baby is actively sucking and swallowing throughout the feed. If you notice your little one's sucking and swallowing pattern slows or stops early in a feed, use breast compression, gently massaging your breasts, to help your milk begin to flow.

4. You allow your baby to finish the first breast. When your baby is actively sucking and swallowing, allow her to remain at the first breast, before offering to nurse on the other side. This will allow your baby to access your rich hindmilk. It is important for both breasts to be stimulated in the early weeks of nursing. This should not be a problem if you are nursing frequently, even if your baby only nurses at one breast per feed. You can offer the other side, or express some milk if you are at all uncomfortable in between feeds. Be flexible. If your baby is very content nursing at one breast per feed, and is growing well, follow that pattern. If your baby comes off one breast after her sucking slows, and eagerly is looking for more, offer the other breast. Watch your baby.

5. Your baby is growing normally. Monitor your baby's output and weight gain. Normal weight gain at this time is four to eight ounces a week. Schedule a weight check with your health care provider if you are at all concerned.

6. Your baby has good output. When you're concerned that your baby is getting enough to eat it's important to keep a close eye on your baby's output. Your baby should be wetting at least six to eight diapers, and having at least two to three bowel movements each day. If she is not hitting this mark, it is very important to schedule a weight check -- that day.

Next: Getting breastfeeding right: What you need to know

Enjoy lots of skin-to-skin contact. Babies love to be held, stroked and cuddled. Skin-to-skin contact is also stimulating -- helping to wake a sleepy baby, and keep her awake for a good feed.

Get help with breastfeeding. If you are having any difficulties nursing, if your baby does not have good output, or is not gaining weight at the normal rate, it is very important to get skilled help immediately. Choose one person you trust to work with.

Always keep in mind that you know your baby best. Ultimately, you need to make decisions based on what is best for you, your baby, and your family.

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