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How do I know if my baby is receiving enough breast milk?

Updated: Sep 29, 2019

For a mother, it is very important that her baby is being fed enough--- especially if she feels that she does not have an adequate milk supply.

One of the main ways to ensure your baby is set up to transfer breastmilk is by perfecting the latch. We discuss this topic further in a previous blog post found here. There are a few other ways to make sure breast milk is flowing described below...

My baby seems to be latched but I’m not sure if he is actually drinking my milk?

One of the ways to assess a latch is to 1) look at the jaw motion and 2) listen for sucking and swallowing. While feeding, a jaw motion should look more like its 'rocking' vs a straight up and down motion.

You may also hear/see a difference in sucking vs swallowing. Swallowing makes a distinct sound (as if you were gulping a drink) while the jaw drops slightly to open the throat. If you can only see a suck and cannot hear a swallow, then the baby may not be transferring milk.

Another way to make sure there has been milk transfer is through assessing the baby after a feed. Your baby should look 'milk drunk' or very relaxed and sleepy. The baby's hand will come off the breast and hang loosely like the rest of the body.

Another option: You can weigh your baby before and after a feed, showing an increase in weight post breastfeed. This will show only a few ounce difference, however will prove that your baby did indeed receive milk.

OR look at/inside their mouth--- milk residue is a great sign that the baby is transferring milk.

A long term latch assessment would be to watch your baby's weight over time to make sure they are 1) not losing weight and 2) they are gaining the proper amount of weight according to accepted growth charts.

Please note that breastfed baby's may lose a bit of weight within the first week after birth. This is normal as long as the weight reduction it is no more than 5-7% of their birth weight.

Breastfed babies tend to gain weight faster than formula fed babies within the first couple months postpartum. However, this weight gain is slower (in comparison to formula fed babies) in later months. These weight fluctuations are also normal and do not point to inadequate breastmilk supply.

Is it possible to feed my baby too much breast milk?

Breastfeeding is regulated by a process that is very similar to supply and demand. The mother will produce just as much milk as the baby needs in order to develop in a nutritionally healthy manner. As long as there are no complications with milk transfer, the baby will get the perfect amount of milk needed when feeding from the breast.

Pumping follows a similar 'supply and demand' concept as long as the frequency of the mother's pumping schedule matches that of the baby's feeding schedule. The milk pumped should be the same amount that the baby normally eats during a feeding.

Formula Feeding

Formula feeding becomes more complicated (in terms of amount of formula given) because it is not as easy to read the signs of infant fullness or hunger.

Because the parent makes the formula mixture, often times the baby is given too much. The consequences of this include wasted extra formula (and money) OR the additional intake may cause the baby to be overfull and show signs of reflux.

It may take practice to understand exactly how much formula your baby needs while watching for signs of fullness/hunger on a daily basis.

In conclusion...

Each baby is different and requires extra attention to understand feeding sessions. If you are having trouble with over/underfeeding your infant, reach out to a lactation specialist. Many will give you help even if you are formula feeding.

Here at Mamas Maternal Health, we would be happy to answer any questions you may have on infant feeding practices...Check out our website and sign up now!

Until next time!

Mikayla and Cassie

Mamas Maternal Health Registered Dietitians/Lactation Counselors

Reference: The Lactation Counselor Training Course Notebook (2018)., Healthy Children Project, Center for Breastfeeding

Photo by Minnie Zhou on Unsplash

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