• How do I know I have enough breastmilk for my baby?

    Many a breastfeeding mother has been plagued by doubts over her breastmilk supply. Here are some facts from certified lactation counselor, Abbie Yabot, for breastfeeding moms to consider.

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    “How do I know if I have enough breastmilk for my baby?” is a common question among new breastfeeding moms.There are many ways to be assured that a mom has enough breastmilk for her baby even during the first three days of life and this does not include heaviness of the breast, dripping of the milk (some moms check by trying to pinch the nipple, ouch!) or pumped milk quantity.  

     

    Quality of Breastfeeding

     

    When a baby nurses regularly in a correct position (tummy to tummy) and latch (most of the areola in baby's mouth, fish lips, synchronized movement from mouth to temple of ears to the throat area), mom can worry less. Moms can sometimes even feel the letdown, like a tingling sensation in the breast and can hear the baby's swallowing in a very quiet room. Although baby books say that babies should breastfeed for 15 minutes per breast every two hours, each baby has a different breastfeeding pattern. While some babies can feed for 20 minutes every hour, others can go as long as one hour of breastfeeding but with intervals of four to five hours.  This is why you'll need the other gauges below to properly assess if you have enough breastmilk. 

     

    Wet and Soiled Diapers

     

    This is the most tangible measure for checking proper milk supply.  For the first five days of life, you can expect one wet and one soiled diaper for every day of life.  From the sixth day to sixth month, you can expect an average of six wet cloth diapers (three to four disposable diapers) in a 24 hour period.  This measure can only be used for exclusively breastfed babies (no formula, no water). 

    There should be a minimum of two soiled diapers per day from the second week to baby's first month, one soiled diaper on baby's second month which may gradually lessen to up to once weekly from the third month onwards.  This is because breastmilk is bio-available and all its nutrients are absorbed by the baby's body, hence, very little or no waste at all.

     

    Weight Gain

     

    You can expect about 7-10% weight loss during the 1st week and for baby to regain birthweight by the second week.  Then, baby should be gaining about one pound per month or four to eight ounces per week during the first six months.  This gradually slows down from the sixth month to the first year to allow baby to grow to his own body structure.  Remember, though, that weight is not the sole gauge for checking milk supply.

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    General Well-Being of Baby

     

    If a newborn falls asleep after a breastfeeding session, mom and dad can be assured that the baby was able to get "what he needed".  Well breastfed babies are active, alert, happy and healthy.  Lethargic or sick looking babies may be an indication that breastmilk should be closely monitored by an expert.  You may also use baby's developmental milestones (like eye tracking, turning over, creeping and crawling, sitting up, standing, walking) as a gauge.  Babies who are on track, or even advanced, are able to get the right amount of milk that they need. 

     

    Other Indications

     

    Skin of baby should be supple and soft and not scaly and dry.  Fontanel (soft spot on baby's head) is rounded after a baby's feed.  Baby also opens her palms and brings her arms down when she gets contented or full (hungry babies have their closed fists to the upper extremities).  

    After moms get past the first six weeks of breastfeeding, most trust their mother's instinct along with all the indications above to assure themselves that they are giving total nutrition to their babies.  When in doubt, it is good to get a second opinion and do your own research.  What moms have to keep in mind, though, is that breastmilk is produced naturally, just like breathing, as we are made to be so.  Only in this relaxed state can moms truly be assured of an abundant milk supply. Constantly asking yourself, “How do I know I have enough breastmilk for my baby?” might be counterproductive to having a healthy breastmilk supply. Just relax and don’t hesitate to seek help when you need support.

     

    Photo from flickr.com

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