Breast-feeding: How to gauge success

If you're breast-feeding, you might wonder whether your baby is getting enough milk. Ask yourself these questions — and know when to seek help. By Mayo Clinic Staff

When you're breast-feeding, you can't measure the amount of milk your baby drinks during each feeding — but you can still make sure your baby is getting enough to eat. Here's how.

Cover the basics

When you're breast-feeding, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your baby gaining weight? Steady weight gain is often the most reliable sign that a baby is getting enough to eat. Although most babies lose weight soon after birth, it's typically regained — and then some — within one to two weeks. Your baby will be weighed at each checkup. If you're concerned about your baby's weight, make an appointment to have your baby weighed.
  • How often does your baby breast-feed? Most newborns breast-feed eight to 12 times a day — about every two to three hours. During growth spurts, your baby might take more at each feeding or want to breast-feed more often. Trust your body's ability to keep up with the increased demand. The more often your baby nurses, the more milk your breasts produce. As your baby gets older, he or she will take in more milk in less time at each feeding.
  • Is your baby swallowing? If you look or listen carefully, you might be able to tell when your baby is swallowing — usually after several sucks in a row. If your baby swallows quietly, you might only notice a pause in his or her breathing.
  • How do your breasts feel? When your baby is latched on successfully, you'll feel a gentle pulling sensation on your breast — rather than a pinching or biting sensation on your nipple. Your breasts might feel firm or full before the feeding, and softer or emptier afterward. If breast-feeding hurts, ask your baby's doctor or a lactation consultant for help.
  • What about your baby's diapers? For the first few days after birth, the number of wet diapers typically increases each day. By the fifth day after birth, expect your baby to have at least six wet diapers a day and three or more bowel movements a day. The stool will be dark and sticky for the first couple of days, eventually becoming seedy, loose and golden yellow.
  • Does your baby seem healthy? A baby who seems satisfied after feedings and is alert and active at other times is likely getting enough milk.
Apr. 14, 2012 See more In-depth