- Baby’s weight gain
- Number of wet diapers
- Color of urine
- Number and nature of bowel movements
- How your breasts feel
Baby's weight gain: best indicator
Your baby’s weight gain is the most reliable sign of weather he’s getting enough milk or not. New babies, after the first week or life, should be gaining and average of 4-7 ounces a week, or a minimum of 1 pound a month.
Number of wet diapers
A well-nourished newborn will have 4-6 wet disposable diapers a day by the fourth day after birth, or 6-8 cloth-diapers. Since these days disposable diapers are so absorbent it can be difficult to tell how wet one is. To learn how a wet diaper feels to the touch, as well as the weight try to pour two tablespoons of water in a clean diaper. After the first month your baby’s wet diapers will feel even fuller- about 4-6 tablespoons of water worth.
The color of your baby’s urine should be pale or water-colored. It’s normal in the first few days for there to be a residue of “brick dust” on your baby’s diaper (having a slight orange tint, or looking a bit like apple juice). This is urate-crystals from concentrated urine. However, after the first few days of life, as the baby gets hydrated, the brick dust should disappear. If the urine is darker after four days then the baby may be not be getting enough milk.
Natural progression of newborn stools
There is a natural progression to newborn stools in their first few days of life. First, meconium stools are greenish black with a tarlike consistency. Frequent colostrum feedings speed up the process of clearing out the meconium from the newborn’s intestines. Next come the transitional stools, which generally occur between days four and seven. The meconium is being expelled and the mother’s milk is being increased. Finally come the wonderful, trusty, milk stools. These are yellow and have a cottage cheese like consistency. They are reminiscent of mustard seeds.
The importance of hindmilk
When your baby empties out a breast he reaches the high-fat hindmilk essential for his growth. Some babies can have enough milk that they feel full, but they do not stay at the breast long enough to get the creamier, high-calorie hindmilk. These babies could have enough wet diapers and have a healthy urine output, but still seem unsatisfied, and have poor weight gain. Another common way to tell if your baby is not getting the hindmilk is when the stool is a bit green. If you see signs of insufficient hindmilk try to leave your baby on one breast for as long as he’ll have it. Encouraging him to fully empty the breast and reach the hindmilk. Only if he’s still hungry after this put him on your second breast.
Frequency of newborn bowel movements
During the first month of life it is not uncommon for babies to have a bowel movement with every feeding. However, some babies have only two or three stools each day, but they should be quite substantial. As the gut matures, after the first month or two, each baby finds his own rhythm. Some babies will poop once a day, while others will poop once a week. Just make sure that the baby has sufficient weight gain, and that the baby is not uncomfortable. If you suspect constipation keep your eye out for my upcoming article about “tips for your constipated baby”.
How your breasts feel
As you get more practice nursing and increase your confidence you will feel like a pro in no time. You may be able to tell just by how your breasts feel, which breasts’ turn it is to go first, or if your baby has emptied out your breast. Most mothers can feel a pinching or tickling sensation when the milk-ejection reflex occurs. Some mothers find it to be a sharp pain. This reflex usually occurs after a few minutes of nursing. Some women do not feel any such sensation. However, you can usually tell by watching your baby. Some babies get overwhelmed by the sudden letdown of milk and begin spluttering milk, trying to catch up and swallow faster gulps. The baby usually begins sucking harder as the milk begins to flow and swallows more frequently. Other signs that your baby is getting enough milk is if he’s swallowing after every one or two sucks, if there are drops of milk leaking from the sides of his mouth, and if he seems content during and after feedings.
If your baby is producing enough wet diapers, has regular bowel movements, and is gaining weight, the most important advice I can give you is not to worry. Please don’t be tempted to supplement your milk if all of the signs are healthy. If you do this, your baby will nurse less and your breasts will produce less milk, as they adjust to their lowered demand. Most women make enough milk, but their baby may not be getting enough milk. Causes for not delivering enough milk to your baby are usually due to insufficient latch-on, inefficient timing of feeds, inadequate support for breastfeeding, or an overly stressed and tired mother. Make sure that you get the right kind of support that you may need for yourself, or for nursing.
If you suspect that you are not producing enough milk, or are having a hard time getting enough milk to your baby, keep your eye out for my upcoming article, “Increasing My Milk Supply.”