Wouldn’t it be nice if your breasts were equipped with little gauges that indicated how much milk was removed when your baby ate? Fortunately there are other ways to measure milk intake when a baby is breastfeeding.
Your baby should eat at least 8 times every 24 hours. If your baby is eating and not just sucking, you will be able to observe swallows. Swallows will be infrequent immediately after birth, but will gradually increase to about 1 swallow per second around day 4 or 5.
It is possible for a baby to be at the breast for long periods of time but not get enough milk to grow. If baby’s suck is ineffective or the latch is incorrect, he may not get enough to eat in a timely fashion. For that reason, it’s very important to watch and listen for swallows when you’re nursing your baby.
Swallows are audible and visible. A swallow sounds like a softly whispered “kuh” as air is released from your baby’s nose. Sometimes there will be an audible “gulp” when milk is gushing into your baby’s mouth. You can see a swallow by watching your baby’s chin. When his chin is moving rapidly up and down your baby is not swallowing. When he pauses and drops his chin down, opening his mouth extra wide, your baby is swallowing.
If your baby is nursing well, he will be happy and vigorous at the breast—sucking and swallowing rhythmically. When he is finished, your breast(s) will feel softer and your newborn will look content and a little drunk.
What goes in, must come out! A baby should have at least as many wet diapers as his age. A 2-day-old baby should have 2 wet diapers, a 3-day-old baby, 3 wet diapers and so on. After day 5 your baby needs at least 6 pees per day. The diaper will feel heavy and the urine will be pale yellow or colorless.
Counting poopy diapers is important as well. Newborn poop is called meconium. It’s sticky and greenish-black. It gradually transitions to breastmilk poop which is yellow and runny with tiny white curds. A well-fed baby will have at least 2 big poops each day after day 4. Don’t be alarmed if your newborn gives you a poop with every feeding. That’s completely normal for breastfed babies.
Finally…trust your instincts! Nature gave you powerful intuition to help you with mothering. If you ever feel unsure that your baby is not feeding well, check with your pediatrician or lactation consultant.