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Feeding baby is often the most stressful part of being a new mother. If you are breastfeeding, how do you make sure that baby is getting enough milk? If you are formula feeding, how much should a baby be eating? There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer, but here I’ll answer some common questions to get you started in the right direction. If you are still concerned, make sure to consult with your doctor or a lactation consultant.
If you are concerned about how much milk baby is getting, make sure to download my feeding log. I designed this as a new mom to get a picture of how much my son was eating. I was trying to breastfeed but was constantly concerned he wasn’t eating enough, and his weight gain was inconsistent. This allowed me to quickly and easily track every nursing session and bottle he received. I had a sheet for each day that I kept in a folder. I then took the sheets to doctor appointments and meetings with the lactation consultant. It was immensely helpful to have this information recorded so that I could accurately answer the questions. You can get my log here.
How much milk should a
baby be drinking?
Each baby is different, but here are some common guidelines to give you an idea.
- Newborn: 2 to 3 ounces every 3 or 4 hours
- 1 Month: 4 ounces every 4 hours
- 6 Months: 6 to 8 ounces 4 or 5 times a day
Another way to look at it is an average baby will consume 2 to 3 ounces a day per pound of body weight up to a maximum of 32 ounces per day.
How can I tell how much milk my baby is drinking when breastfeeding?
Weigh baby before and after feeding. Breast milk has a density close to 1. This means that the weight of breastmilk is approximately equivalent to the volume. Therefore, if you give a baby 1 oz of breastmilk, the baby will gain about 1 oz if weighed right after feeding. You can use this information to monitor baby’s intake from breastfeeding. Weigh your baby immediately before feeding. Then breastfeed until your baby is satisfied. Once your baby is finished feeding, weigh him again. The weight gained is approximately the volume of milk that your baby drank. You do need a sensitive scale designed for babies to do this. Here is one version of a scale that would work if you are concerned enough to do this after multiple feedings a day. However, if you just want to get a basic idea, you can do this in the doctor’s or lactation consultant’s office. Some locally-owned baby stores also have nursing rooms with scales that you can use.
Do NOT waste money on devices designed to tell you how much baby is eating while nursing. I purchased this one to try and sent it back after a couple of days. Devices like this are not to the point of being accurate and they are extremely cumbersome to use. If you are already questioning your ability to breastfeed, the last thing you need is something else to juggle while trying to get baby to latch.
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How can I tell if my baby is getting enough milk when breastfeeding?
- Monitor baby’s fullness cues. If baby latches on and nurses readily and then falls asleep, that’s a good indication that your baby is full. When a baby is finished nursing, they often make a satisfied face. My son would pick his head up, purse his lips and seem to be saying, “That was tasty!” right before curling up on me to sleep.
- A full feeding should sustain baby for at least 2 to 3 hours. If your baby is wanting to nurse more often, pay attention to if he really seems to be hungry. A baby may nurse more often for comfort and not because of hunger. Also, babies will nurse more frequently during growth spurts. However, these periods shouldn’t last more than a couple of days.
- Monitor for consistent weight gain. Babies naturally lose weight in the first couple of days after birth; however, they should be back to birth weight within about a week. If your baby isn’t gaining weight, he may not be getting enough milk.
- Watch baby eating to determine if he’s actually swallowing. If your baby is taking long sucks and swallowing after no more than 4 sucks, then he is getting a decent amount of milk and actually eating versus suckling for comfort.
What should I do if I don’t think my baby is getting enough milk?
The first thing I suggest is meeting with a lactation consultant. They are trained to evaluate your baby’s latch and feeding and give tips on ways to improve or make it easier. Before deciding you need to supplement, meet with someone whose job it is to help women with breastfeeding.
If you are concerned that your supply is low, there are numerous lactation boosting recipes you can try like this lactation boosting protein shake.
Is it alright to let someone give the baby a bottle of pumped milk once in a while?
Yes, it can be wonderful for your sanity to let dad give your baby a bottle overnight while you sleep. However, there are a couple of valid concerns with giving your baby a bottle instead of nursing. I’ll outline the concerns and tips for preventing any problems.
Concern #1: Baby will prefer a bottle to nursing.
Drinking from a bottle is way less work for your baby than nursing. The milk also tends to flow more quickly and doesn’t require time for a letdown. Paced bottle feeding is important to make sure that your baby doesn’t get the idea that a bottle is better because he can now chug his milk. Before giving your
Concern #2: Skipping a feeding will decrease your milk supply.
This is another concern rooted in reality. Breastfeeding is a supply and demand situation. If demand goes up, supply will increase. Conversely, if demand goes down, supply will decrease. If you start consistently skipping an overnight feeding to get 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep, you will start to see a decrease in milk supply. The first couple times your breasts will be really full when you get up, but after a couple days they will start being progressively less full. This can be a slow decline that’s a slippery slope you don’t notice happening until your supply has dropped a lot. Ideally, if baby gets a bottle, you should pump instead. However, that often negates the benefits of having your partner get up for a feeding. To make this easier, make sure you have an efficient pump. You can view my breast pump comparison here.
You have a few options. I suggest trying them all to figure out which works best for you but be very conscious of if you milk supply starts to drop.
- Let your someone else feed your baby a bottle while you sleep (don’t go more than 6 hours between nursing sessions though). Pump a couple of times after feedings during the day to get the milk for the bottle and help keep your supply up.
- Have your partner get up with the baby and change the diaper, then bring the baby to you in bed to nurse.
- Have your partner feed baby a bottle while you pump.
You can do a combination of these as well. Maybe you sleep through one or two feedings a week, but not every night. Just make sure that anyone who feeds your baby a bottle is practicing paced bottle feeding and not letting baby chug the bottle to get back to bed faster. If your baby will be getting a bottle regularly, it is a good idea to periodically do before and after feeding weights for a nursing session to make sure your baby hasn’t been getting lazy with nursing knowing that a bottle will be forthcoming at some point.
How can I keep track of how much my baby is eating?
You want to document not just the quantity of feedings, but also the quality. Also, you will want to log any bottles baby receives. There are numerous benefits to keeping track of baby’s feedings including seeing a pattern develop of how much baby needs to eat and tracking spit-up/other GI issues. Remembering to track can be difficult when you are an exhausted new parent. Download the tracker I used here, to make tracking simple regardless of whether your baby is getting breast milk, formula, or a combination. If you are feeding formula at all, check out this price comparison to find the best value.
How do you monitor how much baby is eating? Let me know in the comments.
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Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Mom, wife, veterinary pharmacist, equestrian, ice cream lover and occasional hot mess