Is My Baby Getting Enough Milk?

Giving water by bottle or cup or finger feeding at this point does not fix the problem. It only gets the baby out of hospital with urine that is not red. Fixing the latch and using compression will usually fix the problem (See information sheet Protocol for Managing Breastmilk Intake). If fixing the latch and breast compression do not result in better intake, there are ways of giving extra fluid without giving a bottle directly (see the information sheet Lactation Aid). Limiting the duration or frequency of feedings can also contribute to decreased intake of milk.

The following are NOT good ways of judging

1. Your breasts do not feel full. After the first few days or weeks, it is usual for most mothers not to feel full. Your body adjusts to your baby's requirements. This change may occur quite suddenly. Some mothers who are breastfeeding perfectly well never feel engorged or full.

2. The baby sleeps through the night. Not necessarily. A baby who is sleeping through the night at 10 days of age, for example, may, in fact, not be getting enough milk. A baby who is too sleepy and has to be woken for feeds or who is "too good" may not be getting enough milk. There are many exceptions, but get help quickly.

3. The baby cries after feeding. Although babies sometimes cry after feedings because of hunger, there are also other reasons for crying. See also the information sheet Colic in the Breastfeeding Baby. Do not limit feeding times. "Finish" the first side before offering the other. Remember, play detective and watch baby's chin -- this will tell you if baby has been actually feeding or just going through the motions!

4. The baby feeds often and/or for a long time. For one mother feeding every three hours or so may be often; for another, three hours or so may be a long period between feeds. For one, a feeding that lasts for 30 minutes is a long feeding; for another, it is a short one. There are no rules how often or for how long a baby should breastfeed.

It is not true that the baby gets 90% of the feed in the first 10 minutes. Let the baby determine when he is ready for feeding and things usually come right, if the baby is sucking and drinking at the breast and having at least two to three substantial yellow bowel movements each day. Remember, a baby may be on the breast for two hours, but if he is actually feeding or drinking (open wide > pause > close mouth type of sucking) for only two minutes, he will likely come off the breast hungry. If the baby falls asleep quickly at the breast, you can compress the breast to continue the flow of milk (see the information sheet Breast Compression).

Contact the breastfeeding clinic with any concerns, but wait to start supplementing. If supplementation is truly necessary, there are ways of supplementing which do not use an artificial nipple (see the information sheet Lactation Aid).

5. "I can express only half an ounce of milk." This means nothing and should not influence you. Therefore, you should not pump your breasts "just to know". Most mothers have plenty of milk. The problem usually is that the baby is not getting the milk that is available, and this is usually because he is latched on poorly, and/or the milk is not flowing well. Breast Compressions might need to be used (information sheet Breast Compression). These problems can often be fixed easily.

6. The baby will take a bottle after feeding. This does not necessarily mean that the baby is still hungry, and using this "test" is not a good idea, as bottles may interfere with breastfeeding. Babies will often take more liquid from a fast flowing or an even steadily flowing bottle -- even an ounce or two -- while their brains slowly get the message from the stomach that they are more than full.