As parents experiencing baby feeding for the first time, there are a lot of questions of how am I doing? Is my baby getting enough? Add onto the fact that In the first few weeks of your baby’s life, you are asked pretty constantly how much your baby is eating.
If breastfeeding, it is hard to quantify that. How do you answer; a boobful? This makes it easy to doubt yourself and your milk production. If bottle feeding- you rely solely on the amount of milk they take- which can be misleading at times. Especially if you aren’t pace feeding those bottles.
Here are some important things to consider when questioning yourself and if your baby is getting enough.
While we expect babies and want to eat pretty frequently, it is not because they have a never ending pit for a stomach. It’s actually because their stomachs are so small! They can only fit so much in their marble size stomach at one time. What they are able to take in, they digest in about 2-3 hours. Meaning that they will be getting hungry at the end of that time frame.
Fear not! Their stomach will not stay so small requiring those frequent feeds forever. After their growth and development begins to slow around a year, you will notice they adopt a more familiar eating routine of meals and snacks.
Like mentioned before, babies' stomachs are only about the size of a marble at birth. Which matches perfectly with the amount of colostrum that you will be making! Those droplets that you produce are the perfect size meal full of all the nutrients that your baby needs. As your baby continues to grow, their stomach will expand. Likewise, your milk production will increase in volume as well to meet their needs! Not to mention that it is evolving daily in the macro and micro nutrient requirement that your baby will have through their development.
Your baby’s stomach size doesn’t change just because you are using formula as a supplement or as a main source of nutrition. They are still born with that marble sized stomach. Meaning they will only be able to take in so much of a feeding at one time. Why is this important to consider? Formula is dose dependent. The amount of macro and micro nutrients is fixed per serving. Meaning that typically your baby will need to take in a higher volume of formula than those who are breastfed. (You can read more about that here!) For now, focus on following your baby’s hunger and fullness cues with responsive feeding!
While I constantly tell my patients to watch the baby NOT the clock- having a general idea of feeding frequency and duration of the feed can give us an idea of the quality of the feed. Because your baby is in a period of rapid development for the first year, they should be eating at least 8-10 times in a 24 hour period. Typically it’s more though! That equals out to be at least every 3 hours for a feeding session. This can vary depending on the method of feeding, baby, and stage of development. The main point to take away is, a minimum of 8-10 feedings per day. Always be on the lookout for those hunger cues! Feedings may increase to 12-14 times in a 24 hour period.
Breast milk is digested quickly because it is made specifically for human babies. Meaning, they may want to eat sooner. That is OK! Respond to hunger cues! Your baby may want to nurse for a variety of reasons. You have been their safe space their entire life. They may want to nurse for comfort because they are tired, in pain, overstimulated, or even because they are just happy! Did you know that a baby cannot overeat at the breast? Because they are in control of the feed.
Signs of a “good” feed at the breast:
- Audible swallows
- Fullness cues shown
- Satisfied after the feed
- Offer both sides if you have any doubts!
What goes in must come out right? Keeping an eye on your baby's diapers can tell you a lot about what they are eating! In the first week, diaper counts are crucial in ensuring your baby is receiving the right amount of nutrition. Wet diapers show that they are hydrated and dirty diapers show that their bodies are getting rid of excess waste starting with meconium! Diapers increase by one of each per day of life until day 3. After day 3 your baby should have a minimum of 3 dirty diapers for about a month. At this point, your baby should stool about every day, if not more!
As for wet diapers, they will continue to increase by one daily until day 6. This 6 wet diaper minimum will remain the same for good! Having at least 6 urine outputs a day shows that a human being is well hydrated. Check out our chart below!
Did you know that it is common and expected for your baby to lose weight in the first week of life? There are a few reasons for this. While in utero, they are practicing swallowing and breathing with amniotic fluid. If you receive IV fluids during labor, this increases the amount of amniotic fluid that they have access to. Causing them to be a little heavier than they typically will be in the first 24 hours. Again, your providers should expect a little drop! If weight loss exceeds 7-10% of their birth weight, your care team will assess latch, feedings, amounts, and diapers to ensure that baby is getting enough!
Factors that can have an effect on baby’s weight:
- Delivery method
- Gestational age
Your baby should be back to birth weight by 10-14 days postpartum. From this point on, they should stay on a pretty continuous growth curve. Your providers will continue to monitor their growth. Healthy growth includes weight, length, and head circumference. If you or your provider have any concerns- meet with a baby feeding specialist!
Weight and growth can look a little different between genders and feeding methods. Be sure to use comparison tools that take that into consideration.
It can be easy to doubt yourself. Following these basic guidelines can help give you peace of mind. If you do have any doubts or concerns, always reach out to your care providers to ensure that the baby is getting the nutrition they need. As well as you getting the support you deserve. You are doing great!