Don’t we all wish our breasts were ‘see-through’ and we could easily measure how much milk our babies were actually taking in? Hold on! Before you say you can pump to know how much, remember that how much you pump isn’t a reflection of how much you produce. This one is a story for another day. Let’s talk about how to measure your infant’s intake.
Knowing how much breastmilk your baby takes in is usually more difficult in the early days postpartum as mama and baby are just starting to develop their breastfeeding relationship. It is also very common for new mums to interpret every cry as one of hunger. It is important to note that crying is a means of communication and can mean several things. Some of which are: ‘I want to be held by you’ ,‘I’m cold or hot’ ,‘I need a nappy change’, ‘ I feel uncomfortable’ or ‘ I’m hungry’. Some babies even cry at different pitches and rhythm indicating different needs. Here are ways to identify if your baby is taking in enough breastmilk. Please note that these guidelines are for exclusively breastfed infants:
Ways to Identify if a Baby is Taking Enough BreastMilk
- Poop Diapers: Poop diapers are so important! Especially up to 6 weeks of age. For the first 2-3 days of life, your baby’s stool may appear dark, sticky and tarry. This poop is called meconium. It’s the product of the mucus, amniotic fluid and all the other stuff ingested in the womb. It is very important that your baby passes this stool within 48hours after birth. If she doesn’t, this may be indicative of inadequate milk intake and may even lead to jaundice, hypoglycemia and weight loss. The mother’s feeding should be examined to ensure there’s a proper transfer of milk (colostrum, aka liquid gold) and assessment of other concerning issues should be done.
Over the next few days, your baby’s poop should transition from tarry black to greenish to mustard yellow. Your baby should have an extra poop diaper for every day of life (i.e 2 poop diapers on day 2, 3 poop diapers on day 3 e.t.c up till day 6). it is not uncommon for breastfed babies to poop after every feed, this is completely normal and is indicative of good milk supply and weight gain in the infant. After day 6, your baby should have between 4 and 6 poop diapers daily.
A breastfed baby’s poop is mustard in color, can be seedy, look runny and often has a sweet or yeasty smell. It may even smell like bread. Stool frequency may start to decline from 3 months. Your baby may not even poop daily from this age. This is normal.
- Wee Diapers: Urine output is also important. Although this may be more difficult to gauge than poop diapers. The absorbance of the diaper used may differ from brand to brand. However, the standard used in gauging one wet diaper is 45mls of urine. Pick an unused diaper and measure three tablespoons of water into it. That’s what a wet diaper should feel like. Your baby should have 4 to 6 wet diapers daily. Bear in mind that wee can come with poop and this is one of the reasons why poop output is more reliable than wet diapers. If your baby’s wet diaper has a peachy stain, please inform your pediatrician right away! This is indicative of dehydration and a poor milk intake.
- Weight Gain: This is the most accurate measure for assessing an infant’s breast-milk intake. Exclusively breastfed infants should gain averagely 200g per week. It is normal for your newborn to lose some weight in the first 10 days of life. By day 14, he should be back at his birth weight. If your baby is gaining weight but having very few diaper counts, it is important that you mention this to your health provider as this may be indicative of some intestinal disorder.
- Others: There are a few other ways to determine the transfer of milk. Some are:
- Mum’s breasts appear less full after a feed. They should feel softer.
- Visible swallowing of milk. It should sound like taking a ‘gulp’ and there should be jaw movement that may extend to the ears
- Baby seems content and sleepy after a feed
Methods That Are Not Used to Measure An Infant’s Intake
No offense to current grandmas and mother in-loves, the following are not a measure of the infant’s intake:
- Feeling the baby’s stomach to see if it’s full or not
- Sleeping or lack of crying
- Feel free to complete this list J
On a final note, the duration of an infant’s crying during the early months of life increases until about 6 weeks of age and then gradually decreases until 4 months of age. So, a lot of crying can be normal! It is also normal for babies to be alert and wakeful in the evenings and through the night. Breastmilk is gentle on an infant’s stomach and is usually digested within 90 minutes. This means that your baby will likely feed every 2 hours. This is normal infant behavior. It is also normal for the infant to want to be carried a lot! No, this doesn’t mean that you’re spoiling him, it only means that you’re meeting your child’s emotional needs. Remember this stage doesn’t last forever. Make the most of it!
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