By Michelle McKeown Poole, MS, RN, IBCLC
The fear of not making enough is one of the top reasons that women quit breastfeeding. The fact is, most women are making exactly the right amount of milk for their babies, and there is no reason to worry.
But I know. You’re in the hospital, trying to breastfeed your baby, and you don’t SEE or FEEL anything coming out. And in the bed next to you, the formula feeding mommy’s got a 2 ounce bottle going, and you can HEAR the baby chugging away….and it’s freaking you out!
But never fear! Your baby isn’t supposed to be drinking 2 ounces of milk on day one. When baby is born and goes to the breast, she is drinking drops of colostrum, which is the perfect amount to fill up her small belly. As your baby’s tummy quickly grows, your milk supply grows along with it. And by day ten, when your baby’s stomach is the size of a large egg and she is drinking 2-3 ounces at a time…you are making about 25 ounces of a milk every day!
“Yeah, ok,” you say, “that sounds great in theory, but how can I be SURE? What if something’s wrong and I’m not making that much?”
Here is a quick checklist to see if you are making the right amount of milk. Ask yourself:
- Am I breastfeeding my baby at LEAST 8 times a day or as often as he is hungry?
- Am I sure that that during feedings, my baby is actually drinking and not just sucking? (You will see a drop and pause in his chin when he takes a swallow of milk, and hear a “ka” sound.)
- When I am finished a feeding, do my breasts feel softer and does my baby seems satisfied?
- Is my baby making enough wet and poop diapers? (By day 5 you want to see at least 6 very wet diapers and at least 4 poops).
- Is my baby gaining appropriate weight? (About 1 ounce gained every day for the first 4 months).
If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, relax and enjoy your breastfeeding relationship. You are making enough milk!
And it is totally normal for a baby to nurse constantly in the afternoon/evening hours. They even have a name for this period of fussiness and cluster feeding, “the witching hour.” And trust me, you will start to feel pretty “witchy” after a few days of this!
Your breasts don’t make as much milk in the evening as in the morning, which may sound like a bad thing at first. But understand that a very full breast has thinner milk with more water and an emptier breast is making creamier thicker milk. So think of it this way – because your breasts are less full in the evening, baby is getting lots of creamy milk every time he pops on. And in theory, this calorie dense milk should help him sleep for a longer stretch afterwards. Sounding any better? Also, your baby will go through growth spurts where for a few days in a row he will up his feedings in both frequency and length. But because your milk supply is based on your baby’s demand…and as long as you are still answering “yes” to the above questions – you can feel good about the fact that your body is making just the right amount that baby is asking for every day.
If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, it is possible that your baby is not getting enough to eat. If this seems to be the situation, call your pediatrician, and then contact a lactation consultant.