Breastfeeding A to Z

How do you know your baby is getting enough to eat?

Your baby eats at least 8 times in 24 hours

You can hear swallowing when your baby is eating.

You change 3 or more dirty diapers in 24 hours (unless they are 4+ weeks old)

If your baby is less than 4 weeks old and has no dirty diapers in 24 hours, check your baby’s weight at your healthcare providers that day. 

Since there are no ounce markers on the breast and we can’t see what goes into our baby, we sometimes are concerned if our baby is getting enough to eat.

There are 2 things that tell you your baby is getting enough to eat, without knowing their weight.  The frequency of their feedings and the number of stools or dirty diapers you are changing every 2 hours.  If you are concerned about baby’s intake, you can always check with your healthcare provider and have them weighed.  Your mother/father radar is there for a reason–get your questions answered.

In order to gain weight, most babies need to eat at least 8 times in 24 hours.  This averages out to be about every 2-3 hours around the clock.  But no one told your baby.  They may eat closer together and then have a longer stretch of sleep, they may eat every 1.5 hours.  Suffice to say, your baby will have their own unique pattern of eating and it will change over time.  As long as they are gaining weight the pattern they develop works for them.

Stools or dirty diapers tell you, if enough goes in–enough comes out!  Weight gain is occurring if you are changing dirty diapers.  A rule of thumb is to be changing 3 or more dirty diapers by the 3rd day of life.  The range of normal can be 3 per day to every diaper you change.  (1)(2)  There is a range of normal and it can vary day to day.

If your baby is more than 4 weeks old, know that it is normal for breastfed babies to start slowing down on the number of dirty diapers they have in 24 hours.  It is no longer a good gauge of adequate breastmilk intake.  Range of normal can be every diaper you change to one dirty diaper per week!  A BIG range of normal, but normal.  This usually happens between 5-6 weeks of age–but no one told your baby this. (3)  Stools will still be soft and mushy, just less frequent.  It is a BIG change from multiple times per day to something less.  If you are still concerned, check with your healthcare provider.

References:

  1. Lawrence, RA, Lawrence, RM, Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Professional, 7th edition, Maryland Heights, MO, Elsevier Mosby, 2011, p 276.
  2. Wambach, K, Riordan, J, Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, 5th edition, Burlington, MA, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2016, pp 295-96.  Note: publishing date does say 2016.
  3. Mohrbacher, N, Stock, J, La Leche League International The Breastfeeding Answer Book, 3rd Revised Edition, Schaumburg, IL, La Leche League International, Jan 2003, pp 39, 158.