5 Ways to Tell if Your Baby is Getting Enough When Breastfeeding

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When parents feed from bottles, it can be really easy to see that the baby is "getting enough". When a pediatrician says the infant should be consuming 3-4 ounces a feed, a parent can mix a bottle with 4 ounces and watch the baby consume. Breastfeeding is not as straight forward. It can be anxiety-inducing for even the most confident of parents not to "know" that their baby is taking in enough breastmilk. If you are aware of a couple key markers, though, it can be easy to feel confident that your baby is getting enough without having a scale in your home!

1. Number of wet and dirty diapers

The easiest way to tell If your baby is eating enough is by looking at their wet and dirty diapers. If they are eating enough, they will be excreting waste. Here is what to expect for the first 4-6 weeks of life.

  Wet Dirty
Day 1 1-2 1-3
Day 2 2-3 1-3
Day 3 3-4 at least 3
Day 4 at least 6 at least 3
Day 5 at least 6 at least 3
Day 6 and beyond 6 or more at least 3

Around 4-6 weeks, it is completely normal for a breastfed baby to have less frequent dirty diapers (some babies go up to a week without pooping)! As long as their weight gain is normal, it is nothing to worry about. You can check your infant's weight gain with your pediatrician or lactation consultant.

The number of wet diapers per day should be at least 6, even when dirty diapers decrease in frequency.

2. Number of feeding sessions per day

  • The Golden Rule: 8 or more in 24. You are looking to be feeding your baby at least 8 times every 24 hours. It is very common for some babies to feed up to 12 times per day (or more). This is also important for maintaining your milk supply.
  • Growth spurts happen around 7-10 days of age, 6 weeks of age, 3 months of age, and 6 months of age - so expect to see increased nursing during these general time frames.
  • As babies get older, it is also common for them to become more effective at nursing, and so they may decrease the number of feedings per day.

3. Changes in how your breasts feel after nursing (stop watching the clock!)

As your nursing relationship progresses, you will begin to notice changes in how your breasts feel during and after nursing. Many mothers can feel if the baby did not feed effectively because their breasts still "full" or "heavy".

If you have a nursing session and you feel your infant did not feed well, you can hand express or pump to remove the extra milk and store it for use at another time (see info about milk storage and handling here).

If it is normal for you to feel that your baby did not effectively empty your breast or if your baby is feeding for abnormally long amount of time on a regular basis, you may want to seek out the help of a lactation consultant to ensure you do not experience plugged ducts or mastitis.

At any point, if you are feeling too "full" or "heavy" - even if your baby is between feeds and not showing hunger cues, you can hand express or pump just enough to feel more comfortable.

4. Infant behavior after feeding

For a healthy, term infant, being satisfied after nursing is an indication that they are getting enough. To tell if an infant is still hungry, watch for subtle feeding cues like rooting, mouthing at their hands, or smacking their lips.

Note: If you are a parent of a preterm or a late preterm infant OR if your infant has had previous weight gain issues, sleeping for more than 3 hours between feedings could be a sign they are not getting enough during breastfeeding. Please contact your pediatrician or lactation consultant in this situation.

5. Weight gain or rate of transfer

  • The primary medical marker of "getting enough" during breastfeeding is weight gain. As a parent, you can request your child's medical record (from your pediatrician or lactation consultant) and use their appointment weights to see if they are gaining well.
  • You can also have a lactation consultant come in to do a pre- and post-feeding weight check. Scales used by lactation consultants are sensitive enough to tell exactly how many ounces a baby is transferring during a feeding session.