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A few drops of milk. Nearly an hour of pumping and only a few drops of milk.
My best friend was basically freaking out.
The baby was screaming and crying.
She called in reinforcements to help.
But I’ll back up… One of my besties had thought she was feeding her baby enough because – well – she was feeding her all the time.
Not for long periods, but still a lot of feeds.
Then she started to notice her baby was fussy, was pulling away from the breast, and seemed ill content. She tried to nurse more to alleviate this, but the problem just seemed to get worse. She was at a loss when her sister in law came for a visit and then, after following her SIL’s advice and pumping, realized this… her milk supply was very low.
She supplemented her baby with formula (which made baby happy) and she nursed and pumped like a crazy person until, after about a week, her milk supply was back up and enough to feed the baby without issues.
How to Ensure Baby Gets Enough Milk (Whether You’re There or Not)
These things can happen. We can do our best and still worry if the baby is getting enough of what it needs to grow healthy and strong. Sometimes it’s obvious, but other times it’s not.
Here are some ways we can know that baby is getting enough food.
Watch Baby’s Mood
The best way to tell if baby is getting enough milk is their demeanor. If baby is well fed and well slept they are content. This is universal.
If you anticipate your baby’s needs and meet them before they need to scream and cry about it, you’ll have a happy baby most of the time.
After feeding if baby is restless, fussy, and doesn’t nap well, they are likely hungry (or generally unwell). If baby seems to feed but never get enough, this could be a sign your milk supply is low.
Check for adequate wet and dirty diapers
My midwives and doctors (by the way, here’s the difference between your midwife and your doc from my experience) told me to always be sure baby had adequate wet and dirty diapers.
At about one month of age your baby should have at least 4-5 wet diapers per day. If you notice the diapers aren’t soaking wet or they have an odor or a color (not pale) then there could be a dehydration issue.
Dirty diapers are harder to track because some children only have one dirty diaper once every few days, or even more. I can often track my baby’s growth spurts based on changes in their dirty diapers.
If they are used to one dirty diaper a day then go 4 days without one, it’s usually a growth spurt. However, if they are fussy after feeds and missing dirty diapers, I know to dig deeper.
Another way to determine if baby is getting enough is to track it. Like my friend above did, pump and use a bottle. New innovations like Bluesmart Mia actually track how much a baby drinks over a longer period of time.
It can track how much a baby drinks, how long it takes them, patterns in feeding, and even tracks optimal temperatures for milk.
If you are concerned with your milk supply, one way to make sure baby is getting enough is to get cold hard data.
If in Doubt, Feed More
If the baby is hungry, feed it. If you are worried you don’t have enough milk, but think it’s likely a growth spurt, feed more often throughout the day.
The best way to increase your milk supply is by feeding more. If baby is struggling to latch on or you get stressed during nursing so letdown doesn’t happen as easily, pump and track. Another thing to note here is that feeding often may not be a substitute for feeding enough.
If baby gets in the habit of falling asleep at the breast, they are likely not getting the hindmilk which has a higher fat content and makes the baby feel more full.
The foremilk (the milk baby gets at the beginning of the feeding due to its storage location in the breast) has less fat and often encourages baby to nod off during feeds.
This means an hour later – BAM – baby’s hungry again. This snacking at the breast can often contribute to a low milk supply because the baby isn’t depleting the supply of milk at each feed.
Follow Up with Your Baby’s Carers
Often mamas are concerned their babies aren’t getting enough milk, but they aren’t there to watch it. If you’re unsure of whether baby is getting enough often enough, have a pow wow with your baby’s carers.
This may be the daycare providers, a family member, or even a mother’s helper in your home.
They can track the baby’s milk consumption themselves with Bluesmart mia (which will sync to your phone throughout the day).
If they know you are concerned they can pay attention to signs and signals throughout the day instead of you having to feed baby every hour all night in a sleep-deprived fog.
People who watch your baby can use use the sleeve and it will automatically sync with your phone so you’re aware of how baby is feeding all day.
Gather those people who take care of your little one together and tell them your concerns. Together you can be sure the baby is getting all it needs to thrive.