Frequently Asked Questions - Weight Gain and Knowing Baby is Getting Enough Milk
There are three main ways to tell: look at your baby's weight, output (wet and soiled diapers) and behaviour. If your baby is gaining weight properly, that is the most certain sign. Information Sheet #457 How to Know Your Baby is Getting Enough Milk provides more details.
Initially babies lose weight. This is mainly because they are expelling the black tarry stool (meconium) that has built up inside the colon during pregnancy. After the meconium is flushed out, the baby's weight will stabilize and the baby begins to gain weight. This most often happens after the third or fourth day. Many babies lose about 7-8% before they start gaining. A baby is expected to return to his birth weight by 10-14 days of age.
Healthy full term breastfed babies gain 150-230 grams (5-8 ounces) per week. They gain weight steadily and quickly in the first four months. Then their weight gain slows down. Some babies may gain slightly less or slightly more depending on their family body structure. This is summarized in a table at the end of the information sheet How to Know Your Breastfed Baby is Getting Enough. Click on the title or contact a local Leader to get a copy.
Even if your baby hasn't been weighed for a few days, his pees and poops will tell you that he is getting enough. During the first day or two after birth expect one or two wet diapers per day. This will increase over the next 2-3 days. After day 4 a baby should have at least five to six really wet diapers per day (more if you use cloth diapers). By the third day, expect the colour of dirty diapers to change to a greenish transitional stool. By the 5th day babies begin having at least three to five bowel movements per day, each at least the size of a Toonie (2.5 cm). These will typically be very loose and bright yellow in colour, often with a "seedy" appearance. This is summarized in a table at the end of the information sheet How to Know Your Breastfed Baby is Getting Enough or contact a local Leader.
Yes. You can tell that your baby is drinking by watching for swallowing. When your baby swallows, you will see his chin drop almost to his chest and you may hear a soft "kah" sound. You will also notice that your baby has many slow deep sucks before taking a short pause. When your baby is done, your breasts will feel softer, and your baby will appear satisfied.
In the early days, when the baby is getting colostrum, many mothers don't hear swallows. This doesn't mean that your baby is not getting milk. Often you will be able to see swallows as your baby's jaw drops closer down to his chest for an instant. It is this drop in the chin that tells you that colostrum is going into his mouth; it may look like his suck is deeper and longer. Often babies then rest for a couple of seconds before continuing a pattern of little sucks-dropped jaw-pause. It is important for the baby to be latched on to the breast deeply and effectively so he can get all the colostrum he needs.
Holding your baby skin-to-skin is an excellent way to wake a baby and get him interested in feeding. Other ways are to undress him, hold him upright, talk with him, move his arms and legs. While he's sleeping, watch for movement. This is a sign of light sleep. He'll wake more easily from a light sleep than from a deep sleep.
Human milk is designed with all the nutrients in the right proportions for human babies. Mothers all over the world, eating many types of foods, have similar nutrients in their milk. If a mother is very malnourished her milk can have low amounts of some nutrients, but this is extemely rare in Canada.