While many new mothers seem to breastfeed without difficulty, others find the whole feeding process not only physically difficult—but emotionally exhausting. Fear over whether or not they are producing enough breast milk, and if that milk is providing enough sustenance to their delicate newborns can be overpowering. For these women, what should be a special time for both Mother and Baby can become a chore, adding to the already stressful nature of early parenting.
Is Your Baby Getting Enough Milk?
Although you cannot measure exactly how much milk your baby is taking in, there are several ways to see if your newborn is nursing properly and subsequently getting enough to eat. First, be sure that your baby is latched on and positioned correctly at the breast—his lips should cover your areola, well behind the nipple. If you have troubles, your pediatrician or lactation consultant can help you find the best position for you and your baby to nurse; they can also watch and check to see if your baby is latched on correctly. Listen to your baby as he nurses, if you hear swallowing sounds that indicates he is indeed getting milk from the breast.
If you worry that you may not be producing enough milk, use a breast pump to see how much milk you are producing during a nursing session. (If you don't already have a pump of your own, many hospitals will rent pumps on a month-to-month basis.) Try this test: During the course of one day, pump first thing in the morning, before your baby eats, then again mid-day, and again right after your baby has gone to bed. These differing times—both before and after regular nursing sessions—can give you an idea of your average milk production. Use these estimates to catalog an approximation of just how much milk your baby is taking in each day.
How often should your baby nurse? Amy Spangler, MN, IBCLC, a perinatal nurse and lactation consultant says that babies need to breastfeed eight to twelve times in 24 hours. Additionally, she says some babies will breastfeed every three to four hours during the day and one to two hours at night. Other mothers will find their babies breastfeeding every two to three hours, both day and night. Every newborn may have different requirements. If you are still worried, check with your pediatrician—her knowledge of your child's birth weight and background should help her establish a feeding schedule that can benefit you both.
Your lactation consultant or pediatrician can also help you make sure your little one is getting enough to eat by charting your child's weight and determining if it is progressing at a desirable rate. If you baby drops weight right after birth, don't worry—this is a common occurrence. According to Dr. Penelope Leach, well-known author of Your Baby and Child: From Birth to Age Five, it is quite normal for newborns to lose weight for the first four or five days before they start to gain. (A baby's weight at ten days should be roughly the same as it was at birth.)
Another good tip for making sure your baby is getting enough nutrition is to check his diaper. Keep a chart near the changing table to note whether a diaper is wet or soiled with each changing. If your child is getting enough to eat, he will wet at least six to eight diapers a day. Additionally, your newborn's stools can also give you an idea if your child is eating sufficiently. For the breastfed baby, typical stools are light yellow, are rarely hard or smelly, and may be no thicker than the consistency of cream soup.