A common concern of most new parents is the anxiety around knowing how much milk their baby is getting at a feed and how much they actually need to be fed. This is especially true for breastfed babies as we are unable to visually see how much they are taking at each feed. Try not worry as there are lots of signs your baby is taking enough milk.
The first milk available after birth is colostrum, this is available to your baby is very small quantities, as little as 37ml is available to your baby is the first 24 hours following birth and this will gradually increase as your baby feeds at the breast. It may surprise you to know that a newborn baby has a tummy the size of a marble, which can only hold roughly 7-14ml at anytime. As you continue to breastfeed your full breastmilk will start to come through, this happens around 3-4 days after birth. Your baby’s tummy will then begin to grow to accommodate the larger volume of feeds.
As you start to get to know your baby you will start to recognise the various cues and sounds they make when they are both hungry and full. When your baby is hungry, he will start to smack or lick his lips, open and close his mouth, suck on his lips, tongue, hands, fingers, toes or clothing. As your baby becomes more hungry this will progress to rooting around on the chest of whoever is carrying him, trying to position himself for feeding, fidgeting or squirming around a lot and fussing or breathing fast. If your baby is not breastfed at this time he will then progress to moving his head frantically from side to side and crying, this is a late stage sign of hunger and ideally your baby would be fed before these signs start to appear.
Whilst it is hard to judge exactly how much milk your baby is getting as each feed, one clear sign will always be sufficient weight gain. Your baby may lose some weight initially after birth and this is completely normal, what will be important is that your baby puts this weight back on by roughly 10 days of age. Be aware that breastfed babies regain this weight slower than a bottle fed baby, so try not to worry. Another good sign is alertness, if your baby is alert when awake and generally happy and content these are all signs of a well fed baby. Your baby should have 6-8 heavy wet nappies each day, which will demonstrate that your baby is well hydrated and you should expect 2-3 dirty nappies each day, each stool being the size of a 2p coin. Your baby should also have good muscle tone and not be floppy and have a healthy pink skin colour.
If at anytime you are concerned your baby is not feeding well or not getting enough breastmilk at a feed contact your Midwife or Health Visitor for a breastfeeding assessment, alternatively you can access the Ask the Midwife services through either our app or website for 1:1 advice and support.