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Is my baby getting enough milk?

Learning to breastfeed takes lots of time, patience, and practice. Your baby will need to breastfeed 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. Feed your baby anytime you see early feeding cues. If your newborn or preemie baby sleeps longer than 3 hours during the day, wake him or her to feed. A preemie often needs to be woken to eat. As preemies mature, they will guide more of their feedings and wake on their own.

Signs of an effective latch

  • Your baby should be well attached to your breast, this is how babies are able to get more milk. If they are only attached to the nipple they may get enough to pacify, but not enough to get a full feeding.
  • You should see large jaw movements.
  • You may be able to hear swallowing after every 1-2 sucks.
  • You should feel a deep pulling sensation similar to when you pump.
  • You should not have pain for more than a few seconds with the initial latch.
  • Allow your baby to finish on one breast before switching to the other side. This will help them get more fat in their feeding.
  • You may get less milk from pumping on the side that baby fed.

For a preemie, recognize signs of stress during the feeding

  • Yawning or hiccups
  • Coughing, gagging or choking
  • Fussing or back arching
  • Spreading his fingers
  • Looking away from you
  • Breathing more quickly
  • If you see these stress signs with your preemie, stop the feeding.

Offer a bottle after breastfeeding if your baby is unable to take a full feeding at the breast.  If you have a preemie, you may need supplementation. As your preemie gets bigger and stronger, he or she will need less from the bottle and take more from breastfeeding. 

If you have a preemie, continue to pump after each daytime nursing. Do this until your baby’s due date and until your baby is breastfeeding well at every feeding. For all babies, if you are not offering the breast during a feeding, then pump to signal to your body to make enough milk.

Signs baby is getting enough breast milk

  • 6-8 wet diapers per day
  • Three or more stools per day
  • Gaining 4-7 oz per week
  • Breast softens during feeding
  • 15 minutes or more of active sucking and swallowing
  • Sleeps 1.5-3 hours between feedings
  • With a preemie baby we cannot rely on typical signs that your baby is full. A preemie will sleep even if they are not feeling full.  

If your baby was born very early or very low birth weight, he or she may need to have 2-3 feedings of fortified breast milk each day. Your baby’s neonatologist will tell you if this is needed. Follow up with your pediatrician during well-baby visits to ask when these higher calorie feedings can be stopped.  

Follow up with a Lactation Consultant or your baby’s health care provider if you are worried about your baby’s feedings.  It is okay to ask to have a weight check in between scheduled well-baby visits.

Reviewed 5/2017 by Children's lactation team

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Family Resource Center library, or visit www.childrensmn.org/educationmaterials.

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