It’s got to be one of the hardest things when you have a baby (amongst a sea of hard things) – is your baby getting enough milk? It’s something that can seem like trying do a Rubik’s cube with your eyes closed.
I should know. Three babies later, the constant stress of wondering if a cry meant ‘more milk’ or ‘I need winding’ is something I’ll never forget.
“It’s normal to worry,” reassures midwife and feeding consultant Nikki Khan. “All babies tend to lose weight in the first 48 hours. Anything under 10 percent of body weight is considered normal.”
How quickly should babies then put on weight?
“Four out of five babies have regained their birth weight after 14 days, explains Nikki. “Then babies should gain about an ounce each day for the first few months.”
A useful guide is the weight chart in your baby’s red book, which shows you how much weight your newborn is expected to gain – in fact, over the next 5 years.
How to tell if your baby is drinking enough
Thankfully aside from weight gain, its not all about guess work. There are some key signs that will help you know if your baby is drinking enough. But remember that we’re talking about the first 6 weeks here, and remember too, that no two babies are the same!
Signs of enough mik include:
- Around 6-8 wet nappies a day
- Some dirty nappies but the number will hugely vary
- Your baby settles well after a feed
- Managing to go short stretches between feeds (this varies but could be 2-3 hours if you’re lucky)
One thing most mums on our forums accept is these first 6 weeks are not a time to start worrying (read obsessing) about routines. Try to go with the flow (no pun intended)…
”It is hard to get a rhythm,” says Mum TulipRose. “It takes at least 6 weeks to feel fully comfortable with feeding.”
How big is a baby’s stomach?
When it comes to feeding, it’s worth knowing that at birth your baby’s tummy is the size of a marble and is only the ping pong ball by day 3. So it makes total sense that babies often want little and often. This, admittedly, may mean you’re tied to the sofa watching daytime TV with a baby on your boob for most of the day but it’s something you just have to accept. Just make sure the remote is handy – and you have lots of DVDs ready if you already have a toddler.
“Some babies are also hungrier on some days or might be having a growth spurt,” confirms Nikki Khan.
How can I tell if my baby is getting enough breast milk?
If you are breastfeeding, there’s obviously a little more guesswork in knowing if your baby’s tummy is full.
Luckily babies give us some fairly clear signs when they’re hungry. These include:
- Moving their mouth, lips or tongue
- Rooting reflex when they move their head to and fro – searching for your boobs (or anyone’s boobs for that matter)
- Shoving their hand into their mouth
- A specific cry that usually starts with grunts and a whining sound before building into a wail!
It’s also worth understanding that the amount of fat in breast milk changes over the course of a feed. If you hear your midwife talking about fore milk and hind milk, she’s talking about milk with different levels of fat – the foremilk comes out of your boobs at the beginning of a feed, the hind milk comes later. However, some people aren’t too keen on these terms.
“The foremilk quenches thirst,” explains Nikki. “The hindmilk has the fat content which will keep them baby fuller for longer.”
Nikki’s advice for making sure that your baby gets a full feed is to drain one breast before you go on to the second one.
“Always offer the second breast even if they just take a bit and then start on that breast next time.” After the first few days, most babies will breastfeed at least 8 times a day, sometimes more (no, we’re not joking).
Am I making enough milk?
It’s such a common question. Most mums worry about whether they are producing enough milk but most of us should make enough milk ourselves to satisfy our babies.
“As long as the cycle of supply and demand is maintained with correct latching techniques, you should be fine. Make sure you drink lots to maintain quality,” says Nikki.
And if unfortunately you get mastitis, as painful as it might be, keep your baby feeding to keep your supply up.
Of course in an ideal world we’d like good breaks between feeds and in time this will happen but your baby will probably be several weeks old before it does.
Maxnjacksmummy on our MFM forum says: “For me, those first few weeks were demand-led to build your supply and for both of you to ‘learn’ the art! But once Max was about 6x weeks I would stretch him out a bit more.”
I’m bottle feeding. Should my baby finish every bottle?
It should figure that because you can see the milk going in, it would be easier to know when your baby is full. But what if like me you’re in such a daze you can’t even remember how many scoops of formula you’ve put into a bottle?!
“Your baby has a tiny stomach so the accepted guidelines on formula milk arebetween 150ml and 200ml of formula per kilogram. That’s 5 to 7 ounces for every 2.2 pounds of body weight every day but this does vary,” says Dr Stacey Hoffman, GP and director of The Babybabble.
But in the first six weeks especially, the amount your baby takes at each feed is likely to really vary.
Take Mum BabyGeo2010 on our forum. “Yesterday George was going about two to three hours between feeds and taking between 1-2 oz. Last night though, he only went 90 minutes between.”
And forum Mum Huxley had some sound advice; “As long as he’s feeding often and is content and putting on weight then I’d say you’re doing a brilliant job. When he starts taking all the bottle, then add a bit more.”
What if my baby isn’t drinking the recommended amount?
“Feeding should be as calm as possible so the less anxious you feel the better,” says Dr Hoffman. “Happy parents make happy babies.”
“Try to make feeding low maintenance; yes some babies may prefer warm milk but I believe in starting as you mean to go on. If your baby is falling asleep on the bottle, try going up a teat size so they have to drink faster.”
If your baby is sick after a bottle Dr Hoffman says it’s fine to offer more but just small amounts. If this keeps happening, talk to your midwife.
Dr Hoffman also advises using roughly the same amounts of milk if you’re using expressed milk instead of formula.
And as hard as it feels, remember this initial time of uncertainty will pass. Within a couple of months you’ll probably be settled into a routine.
As mithical on our forum says, “We fed on demand initially. Carry on going with the flow. They will lengthen the time in between feeds when they are ready, same with increasing how much they take.”
I’m mixed feeding, will my baby get enough?
Some of us, like WoWBabies on our forum, choose to mix feed. “I started it at three weeks, by introducing a ‘bedtime’ bottle,” she says. “It meant I had a bit of a kip for the feed.”
Of course while this works for some, Nikki Khan says be careful in the early days to make sure breastfeeding is established. “As breast milk works by supply and demand, still express at the appropriate times to maintain your milk supply.”
So can you trust your own instincts?
The good news is, yes. Don’t underestimate your own instincts in knowing if your baby is getting enough milk.
If your baby is gaining weight and seems content, chances are things are fine. But if you do have any worries about how much your baby is feeding, do talk to your midwife or health visitor.
Whichever way you look at it, just like jogill86 on our forum says, it’s OK to acknowledge that “This feeding thing is hard!”