Every new breastfeeding mom wonders if she's producing enough milk for her baby to grow and thrive. Our expert advice will put your mind at ease.
The Pump Station & Nurtury has supported new and expecting parents in the Greater Los Angeles area for more than 33 years with evidence-based breastfeeding, baby care, and parenting education. Through its array of prenatal and postnatal classes and services, Pump Station gives parents the tools they need to parent confidently.
One of the most common questions we’re asked daily from breastfeeding moms is “Am I producing enough milk for my baby?” Many moms fear they’re not producing enough milk and thus baby is not getting enough and growing as they should.
In the more than 33 years Pump Station has been supporting new breastfeeding mothers, founder Corky Harvey, MS, RN, IBCLC, has identified some indicators that mom should consider before panicking.
First and most important, moms need to realize that once baby is born, mom has “milk” in her breasts in just the right amount to meet the needs of her baby. Baby initially suckles frequently on high-powered milk called colostrum—and there is no more perfect food for your newborn infant! It’s so important to give your baby unlimited access to your breasts these first days to get your breastfeeding experience off to a positive start. Making milk is a take-make, or demand-supply, situation: The more often and effectively your baby nurses, the sooner the volume of your milk will increase and the higher the volume will go.
It’s also important to know that during the first days of life most babies lose from 5 to 8 percent of their birth weight—this is perfectly normal, and it’s the result of the elimination of meconium, a dark green/brown stool, and other birth fluids. As your milk supply increases after the fourth day of life, your baby should start to gain about an ounce every day, re-establishing their birth weight within 8 to 14 days. For the next three months, baby should be gaining from 6 to 7 ounces every week. Breastfed babies should see their healthcare provider two to three days after they leave the hospital, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Your provider will be able to determine if baby’s weight is appropriate.
It’s the biological norm for human babies to feed frequently, as human breast milk is easily digested and passes through a baby’s very small stomach within 48 to 90 minutes. We encourage moms to look for indicators that baby is hungry: tongue movements, wiggling, stretching, hand-to-mouth movements, noises, and light sleep. One of the last feeding cues for a baby is crying, so you shouldn’t wait for baby to cry to know they’re hungry. Feed baby as much as they desire, as this will help increase your supply and help baby regain their birth weight and grow sufficiently. If for any reason you’re worried about your baby’s weight gain, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider, seek lactation support, or find a place where you can do a weight check for baby.
By the second day of life your baby should be breastfeeding 8 to 12 times over a 24-hour timeframe. Sometimes you’ll need to wake your baby for feeds over the first days or weeks. Once your baby has regained their birth weight, usually within two weeks, you’ll probably not need to wake your baby to feed. Once back at birth weight your baby should be feeding at least eight times over 24 hours. At first your baby may only feed for a few minutes, but length of feeding can vary quite a bit. Often babies have a three-hour period of fussy, wakeful behavior, which we refer to as the “witching hours,” where they may marathon feed. They should also have one three- to four-hour stretch of sleep. Babies may linger at the breast for as long as 30 minutes per side. It’s best that you let your baby set the pace, knowing they’ll suck strongly with breaks. You may want to start each feed with a different breast, as this will help balance your milk production.
It’s important to note that “what goes in, comes out.” On day one, baby will have one to two wet diapers; by day six they should have six or more. For the first five days, baby will have as many as four stools a day, and from day six on they should have three or more stools every 24 hours. It’s normal for some breastfed babies to stool every time they feed.
Usually, by the time baby is between three and five days, mom’s milk production increases a great deal, which can make her breasts feel tight and full. This is called engorgement, and it’s caused by the increased volume of milk and bodily fluids in her breast tissue. Engorgement can cause breasts to feel uncomfortable, firm, and even hot; you might even feel body aches. Within 24–48 hours, if baby is nursing well, these feelings should go away. Engorgement can vary greatly from woman to woman, and nursing every two to three hours or even more can help to greatly reduce the tenderness and swelling you may feel. When baby is feeding well, you should hear swallowing. This ensures that they are removing milk, thus making your breasts feel less full and more soft after the feed. For more information, we encourage you to check out our popular article Tips to Relieve Engorgement.
When you start breastfeeding, it’s perfectly normal to feel mild nipple tenderness at the beginning of each feed. However, if your nipples are bleeding, sore, or scabbed this is not normal and may indicate that your baby doesn’t have a good latch and may not be compressing the areola effectively. It’s important to remember that if baby has a good latch your nipples will not be sore and your baby will be able to remove more milk. If your nipples are still sore by the fifth day, we highly recommend consulting an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).
There are a lot of great apps you can use to track your baby’s feedings. In the event you want to keep it old school, we recommend a simple tracking chart with columns for: date, time, left breast, right breast, wet diapers, stools, and notes from mom. We encourage record keeping till baby is gaining sufficient weight, and after that we suggest you let your intuition and baby guide you.
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