One of the most difficult things about caring for a tiny newborn is knowing how much milk they need, especially if you are breastfeeding and can’t see how much they get! The good news is that almost every woman can produce enough milk and it is perfectly formulated for your baby, so for most people there isn’t too much to worry about. You can look out for these signs to reassure you that your newborn is getting everything she needs.
Each baby has a unique feeding pattern, some prefer fewer but larger feeds and others have smaller amounts very frequently at first. In the first week or so you can expect your baby to feed 8 to 12 times a day or more, including plenty of feeds during the night.
It’s normal for babies to loose 7% of their birth weight in the first few days but they should start gaining again when your milk supply increases around day 4 or 5, and most are back to their birth weight by the time they are two weeks old. After that some will follow a centile line on the growth chart, some will slowly move up the chart and some bigger babies will move down a little. So long as your baby is gaining weight it’s all perfectly normal.
Wet and Dirty Nappies
In the first few days you won’t see too many wet or dirty nappies but by the time your baby is five days old they should be producing at least three poos a day, which will have gone from the black meconium of day one to a mustard yellow colour. They should also have around six wet nappies every day.
Seem Healthy and Alert
Does your baby seem healthy to you? They should look a good colour (not too yellow or red), and have periods of being alert. If they seem very sleepy or floppy, their eyes or skin seem dull or a funny colour, or you just feel that something is wrong then it’s best to seek help.
Of course no baby is content absolutely all the time and you might find that he gets frustrated just before a feed or grumpy when he’s tired. In general though, you want your baby to be calm and relaxed during a feed, and seem satisfied afterwards.
Hear Baby Swallow
In the first few days you should be able to see your baby’s jaw moving as they suck and swallow during a feed, by about day five you will also be able to hear it. You will notice that the rhythm changes during a feed, starting with a few quick sucks then settling down to a steady suck and swallow, then changing again after a while. This is all perfectly normal and even lots of gentle sucks without many swallows (towards the middle or end of a feed) are still useful. However, if you can hear your baby making a clicking sound that indicates their latch isn’t quite right and you might need to ask a professional for more support.
Finishing the Feed
Your baby should come off the breast herself at the end of a feed, and you can expect to see milk around her mouth. If she doesn’t want to stop feeding (even if you think it’s just comfort sucking) then she might still be hungry.
Pain free feeds
The first few seconds, while your milk lets down, can be painful but after that feeding your baby shouldn’t hurt. You don’t need to toughen up your nipples and they shouldn’t be cracked, misshapen or painful after feeds. If you do find that feeding hurts don’t try to put up with it and “get through”, it’s an indication that something isn’t quite right and often a little tweak in your feeding technique will make all the difference.
I am offering breastfeeding support to my clients but sometimes you might need to look further afield to get the help you need. You can speak to your doctor or postnatal medical team, or a lactation consultant, like a certified IBCLC. And you can look for help from organisations like the La Leche League, searching for an accredited breastfeeding counselor, a LLL Leader, near you here.