Breastfeeding: How do I Know Baby is Getting Enough at Each Feeding?

Figuring out whether your baby has had enough at a feeding can be daunting for new moms, since there isn't any way to measure how many ounces of milk your baby has taken from your breast.

However, there are signs to look for that will help show your baby is full. As the early weeks go on, it'll become easier to tell the difference between a happy, well-fed baby and one who's still hungry.

After you've compressed, switched, burped and changed your baby, start looking for the following signs that he's had enough at each feeding:

Quiet alert time

This takes place after your baby has nursed for a while and has been swallowing and feeding effectively. He may come off your breast, look around and not root at all. This is a wonderful chance to interact with your baby. You can talk or sing to him, watch him and just enjoy him.

Quiet alert time might be short-lived in the first few days and could be followed by the need to go onto the breast again for a bit so he can fall back to sleep.

Hiccups

Very common in babies, hiccups are developmental. More importantly, they're a sign of satiety. If your baby hiccups during his quiet alert time, it's a sure sign he's had enough. If your baby hiccups while still at the breast he'll most likely stop feeding, since the hiccups can be uncomfortable at that point.

After the hiccups have stopped, he might root around to take in more to help him fall asleep or to get the final amount he needs to finish the feeding.

Deep sleep

This is different than when your baby nurses himself to sleep before he has filled up. If you've had a long nursing session, you've switched breasts at least once or even twice and you've burped and changed him, it's likely that when he falls asleep at this point, it's a deep sleep because he's full. Some mothers say their babies look "milk drunk" when they're in this state.

At this point, it's best to put your baby to bed. If he stays asleep, you'll know he had a satisfying feeding.

A common concern among breastfeeding new moms is that there's no way to measure the amount of milk their baby drinks. Sure, your breasts look and feel emptier, but if you like to know exact amounts and numbers, this can be unsettling. In fact, it's one benefit of bottle feeding; you know exactly how many ounces your baby has taken in. But after you learn what a full baby looks like, you'll relax. The amount of ounces he drinks won't seem as important to you as looking for the signs of a content, full and thriving baby.

Tips for success

  • Look for the following signs that your baby is full: a quiet alert time after feeding with no rooting or hiccups, followed by a deep sleep.
  • You might get a longer quiet alert time with your baby if you dim the lights. Bright, harsh light can shut a baby down, especially in the early days.
  • Often after a quiet alert time or the hiccups, it's a good idea to put your baby back onto your breast for a bit to help him fall asleep.

Source: Heather Kelly is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) who also sits on the Bravado Breastfeeding Information Council Heather has been practicing in New York City since 2001.

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Heather Kelly
Heather is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
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