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: “How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?”
While you can’t physically see how much milk a breastfed baby is drinking, there are easy signs to look out for to help guide you.
Your baby’s first five 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 one wet nappy and a sticky green-black bowel motion.
- Day 2: At least two wet nappies and a soft green-black bowel motion.
- Day 3: At least three wet nappies and greenish-brown bowel motions.
- Day 4: At least four wet nappies with pale/clear wee and lighter greenish-brown or mustard-yellow bowel motions.
- Day 5 and beyond: Five or more wet nappies with pale/clear wee and three or more mustard-yellow soft or liquid bowel motions.
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 three, you should phone 13 HEALTH (and ask to speak to a Child Health Nurse) or visit your Child Health Nurse or GP as this can be a sign your baby is not feeding well.
After day four, 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?
If your baby still has green-black poo by day five, 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.
Important to note
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 four to six. Babies should regain their birth weight by two-weeks-of-age.
What 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 your 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 six weeks and three-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 is 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, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or your GP.
Key points to remember
- Your breast milk is perfectly 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.
Further information and support
Morbacher N & Stock J. The Breastfeeding Answer Book. Illinois: La Leche League International, 2003. Brodribb W. Breastfeeding management. Victoria: Australian Breastfeeding Association, 2004.
Binns C, Scott J & Forbes D. Literature review Infant Feeding Guidelines 2012. Canberra: NHMRC Publication 2012
National Health and Medical Research Council. Infant Feeding Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council 2012
Australian Breastfeeding Association. Expressing and storing breastmilk. Cited on www.breastfeeding.asn.au December 2014. Mannel, R. (2013). In Core curriculum for lactation consultant practice (3rd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.