Milk supply — knowing there’s enough is a constant worry for many moms, dads, and grandmas too. Sometimes we get to depending on “exactness” too much and should trust nature and our instincts. When bottle feeding parents can “see” exactly what’s being taken by the infant. When breast feeding many parents think it’s a “guess” to know if their infant took the amount he needs. There are several ways to know that your infant is getting what he needs — that the milk supply is enough.
First of all is your breast fed infant gaining weight? The first few days are very different in expectations here. Babies actually lose weight the first few days of life, then they regain. For information about the first few days of life, click here. The first few weeks of life a breast fed infant will typically gain 4-7 ounces or more per week. An older infant will “follow the growth curve” at the pediatrician’s office. Ask your infant’s healthcare provider to review the growth charts with you and show you how your infant’s growth is monitored. If an infant is following the curve and gaining weight as expected, then she’s getting enough to eat.
Is your infant actively nursing at the breast? A baby typically will have a pattern of suckling at the breast that you’ll get to know. You may hear gulping of milk, or you’ll see your infant’s quick sucks at the beginning of the feeding as she swallows lots of the foremilk to quench her thirst. The pattern may change to longer, slower, more rhythmic suckles as she’s filling up and pulling the thicker hindmilk from your breast.
Feel your breast tissue before your infant latches to your breast. When your infant acts like he’s done by falling asleep at your breast or by taking himself off the breast, then feel your breast tissue again. You’ll feel some difference — your breast will be less heavy, maybe softer or “mushier”. Some moms say it’s like the difference between pushing on the tip of your nose (before feeding) and the side of your cheek (after feeding). The mushier feeling means milk was drained from the milk ducts in the breast. Feeling overfull or engorged is not typical, so don’t expect that kind of feeling. It should just be a difference before & after, if so, then your milk supply should be fine.
How many diapers is your infant having per day? After 5 days of age, your infant will have 6 or more “heavy” wet diapers per 24 hrs. In the first few weeks of life most breast fed infants have 4 or more (up to 12 sometimes) yellow, loose, seedy stools per 24 hrs. If there’s nothing going in the mouth, then there’s nothing coming out the other end! So monitor your child’s diapers and if she’s stooling and wetting then the milk supply is fine.
About Growth Spurts
During a growth spurt breast fed infants will want to feed more frequently or will want to stay at the breast longer during the feeding. This is how your baby communicates to your body that more milk is needed. As long as you follow what your infant is telling you, your body should respond and increase the milk volume to meet the demand. He may keep up this change in pattern for 1 to even 7 days for some mom’s & babies. So just listen to your baby and feed on demand. If he’s not stooling and urinating as discussed above or if frequent feedings go on for more than 7 days, then see a lactation consultant for help. There are herbs you can use to boost your milk supply and your child’s pediatrician or your OB may prescribe a medicationto help increase your milk supply.