Bringing home a new baby is a very exciting, but also challenging time for new parents. One of the most common things breastfeeding mothers worry about is if they have enough breast milk to feed their baby. While you can’t see exactly how much milk your baby is drinking from the breast, there are some signs to guide you. As a general rule, your baby will be getting enough milk if they:
- have at least 5 wet disposable nappies (or 6 – 8 cloth nappies) and 3 bowel motions every 24 hours (this can start anytime from 5 days to 6 weeks old)
- have reached their birth weight by the time they’re 14 days old
- are gaining 150-200 grams each week in their first 12 weeks
- settle after a breastfeed and between feeds.
Your baby’s first 5 days and beyond
Checking your newborn’s wet and dirty nappies can help you to see if they are getting enough milk. While there can be a wide variation in babies’ nappies in a 24-hour period, typically your newborn will have:
- Day 1: At least 1 wet nappy and a sticky green-black bowel motion.
- Day 2: At least 2 wet nappies and a soft green-black bowel motion.
- Day 3: At least 3 wet nappies and greenish-brown bowel motions.
- Day 4: At least 4 wet nappies with pale/clear wee (urine) and lighter greenish-brown or brown-yellow bowel motions.
- Day 5 and beyond: 5 or more wet nappies with pale/clear wee (urine) and 3 or more mustard-yellow soft or liquid bowel motions.
How much feeding is ‘normal’?
It is normal for babies to feed between 8-12 times in a 24-hour period. Your baby should be bright-eyed, alert and reasonably content between feeds. Your baby’s behaviour when feeding will vary depending on their need for comfort, hunger or thirst. At first, your baby will have a few rapid sucks and then as your milk flow increases the sucks will be slower and deeper. At intervals throughout the feed, your baby will pause and then start sucking again. The number of bowel motions of breastfed infants tends to decrease between 6 weeks and 3-months-of-age. Intervals of several days or more between bowel motions are common as long as your baby is well. Trust that your body is able to meet the feeding needs of your baby, follow your baby’s cues for feeding, comfort and connection.
You may wish to check your baby’s growth regularly and record it on the growth chart in your baby’s Personal Health Record (the ‘red book). The fact that your baby’s growth consistently follows a curve on the growth chart may be reassuring for you. A judgement on your baby’s growth is best made only after a series of measurements rather than a one-off measurement. It’s ideal to use the same baby scales where possible and always weigh your baby without clothes or a nappy. If you have concerns about your baby’s feeding habits, please discuss these with a child health nurse, a lactation consultant or your GP.
What should my newborn’s wet nappies look like?
In their first few days of life, a newborn’s urine may be a pink/orange colour. This is known as ‘urates’. If you still see urates after day 3, you should phone 13 HEALTH (and ask to speak to a child health nurse) or visit your local child health nurse or GP as this can be a sign your baby is not feeding well. After day 4, your baby’s urine should be pale in colour and not strong smelling. Many disposable nappies have a helpful coloured stripe down the front of the nappy which will change colour when the nappy is wet.
Please note, every baby is different and the above information should be used as a guideline only. Always seek medical advice if you are concerned or have any questions.
What should my newborn’s dirty nappies look like?
A newborn’s poo will range from being sticky and green-black in colour on the first day to a yellow-mustard colour on the fifth day and beyond. The pictures below show the colour of a newborn’s poo in their first few days of life.
If your baby still has green-black poo by day 5, you should phone 13 HEALTH (and ask to speak to a child health nurse) or visit your GP or child health nurse as this is a sign that your baby is not feeding well. Please note, formula-fed babies or babies receiving a mix of breast milk and formula feeding can have different coloured transitional poo.
Babies may lose up to 10 per cent of their birth weight in their first few days after birth, but will start to regain weight by days 4 to 6. Babies should regain their birth weight by 2-weeks-of-age.
Key points to remember
- Your breast milk is designed to meet the needs of your baby.
- Babies seek comfort at the breast for many reasons other than to feed – this is normal.
- Follow your baby’s cues for feeding, comfort and connection.
- Your baby may feed more often during certain times of the day or night.
- How often your baby needs to feed and how long they take to feed varies a lot from one baby to the next.
For more information
Queensland Health fact sheet: | Breastfeeding and your baby
Australian Breastfeeding Association | breastfeeding.asn.au
Australian Breastfeeding Association video: | Breastfeeding basics
Lactation Consultants of Australia and New Zealand | lcanz.org
Call 13 HEALTH (13 432 584) – ask to speak to a child health nurse
Call the Breastfeeding Helpline – 1800 686 268 (24 hours/day)