How can I tell if my newborn is getting enough milk?

My new baby seems to want to nurse all the time.  It seems like she's always hungry.  How can I tell if I have enough milk for her?

Many breastfeeding mothers worry about whether they have enough milk to satisfy their babies.  A normal newborn baby will be hungry and wanting to nurse at least eight to ten times every twenty four hours.  That means that she'll be at your breast every 1 1/2 to 4 hours, with each feeding lasting about 20 - 40 minutes.  Most of a mother's time in the first month of her baby's life is spent feeding her baby!  It can seem very overwhelming if you're not sure if the baby is satisfied.

 One way to tell if a newborn baby is getting enough milk is to keep track of her diaper changes.  A well-fed baby will wet at least six diapers a day and have several mushy or sticky bowel movements every day.  (Older breastfed babies may have infrequent bowel movements, but newborns have lots.)

 Another way to tell if your baby is nursing well is to watch her while she breastfeeds.  A baby who is getting milk will be moving her jaw in a steady rhythm, and you will hear her swallow with a little "uh" sound.  She'll rest or pause or suck with a little flutter every once in a while, but most of her time she should be nursing with that steady pattern.  Let her decide when she's done with each breast - babies vary in how long they need to nurse.  If she seems to fill up quickly, try burping her and then put her back at your breast.  Some babies fill up with an air bubble and can't tell that they need more milk!  Be sure to nurse at each breast, and if you can remember, switch the beginning breast each time.  If your baby gets sleepy, change her diaper or burp her to try to wake her.

A newborn baby might lose up to 10% of her birth weight in the first 10 days of her life, but most babies don't drop that low.  Your baby should begin to gain again after that and be back to birth weight or more by three weeks of age.  It's a good idea to see your health care provider when your breastfed baby is a week old.  You can have someone watch you nurse and answer your questions.  Even if your baby's weight is less than when she was born, you can expect her to begin gaining after that.  If you have concerns about her getting enough milk you can then compare her weight to her one week weight.  Her weight gain after the initial loss should be 4 - 7 ounces per week.

A newborn who is growing well and seems to be nursing all the time is a normal baby. If your baby is NOT gaining, it's important to find out why.  You might need help with milk production, or your baby may have a need for more nourishment for other reasons.