How can I tell if my newborn is getting enough milk?

Q: I've been nursing my 2-day-old baby often, but it seems as if he's hardly getting any milk. Is this okay?

A: Don't worry -- at this early stage, you're producing a superconcentrate called colostrum. Even though it's not a lot in volume, it's packed with good nutrition. Rich in fats and protein, it promotes your baby's growth and contains protective antibodies. It's very easy to digest, which makes it easy for your baby to get the hang of feeding. Your real breast milk will come around the third or fourth day after birth, and it will look whiter and more liquidy than the colostrum. If, after that, you're still concerned that your baby's not eating enough, there are signals you can look for. Your breasts should feel soft after nursing, and your baby ought to seem satisfied and sleepy when he's done. Count diapers too; most breastfed infants wet six to 10 -- and soil at least three -- per day in the first month. If your baby is underfed, he'll be irritable and then seem tired and lethargic. If he loses more than 10 percent of his weight in the first few days or weeks after birth, your doctor will investigate. You may have a problem like a thyroid or breast-duct dysfunction, or your baby could have an infection or a weak sucking reflex that needs to be addressed. It's possible you'll need to use a supplementer. This device, which you fill with breast milk or formula, has a tiny tube that runs along the breast to the nipple, allowing the baby to drink from the supplementer and the breast simultaneously. --Laura Flynn McCarthy

Originally published in Parents magazine, August 2002. Updated 2009.


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