You can't see exactly how much milk your baby takes while nursing. However, you can tell whether breast-feeding is off to a good start if you know what to look for. Here are some signs of well-nourished, breast-fed babies during the first month of life.
If you do not think your milk has come in by 4 days after birth, or your baby seems hungry after most nursings, tell your baby's healthcare provider.
Your baby may pause at times while breast-feeding. However, he should nurse strongly during most of the feeding. You should hear your baby swallow regularly while breast-feeding.
Keep your baby at the first breast until it is well drained. When your baby starts to suck less strongly, swallows less, or starts to doze off, you can burp him, change his diaper and arouse him to take the second breast. Generally, babies get more milk at a feeding by nursing at both breasts. Since the first breast gets drained better, start each feeding on a different side. This way, both breasts will get about the same stimulation and emptying.
Nurse your baby as often as she shows hunger cues, such as waking from sleep, looking alert, bringing a hand to her mouth, turning her head, or moving her mouth or tongue. Crying is a late sign of hunger and a baby may not nurse well after crying too long. For the first few weeks, you can expect your baby to want to nurse about every 1 1/2 to 3 hours, with a single longer stretch (up to 5 hours) between feedings at night. Newborns who breast-feed fewer than 8 times in 24 hours or sleep through the night are not likely to get enough milk. At times you may need to wake up your baby to nurse. Some babies just don't demand to be fed as often as they should, especially in the first few weeks of life.
Breast-fed infants who still seem hungry after most feedings — who cry, chew their hands, or often need a pacifier after nursing — may not be getting enough milk. Call your healthcare provider or lactation consultant to help check your milk supply.
One breast may drip milk while your baby nurses on the other side. After the longest time between feedings at night, your breasts should feel very full.
The urine should be colorless, not yellow. After your baby is older than 3 days, if he is not getting enough milk, the urine may look like brick-red dust on the diaper.
Your baby's bowel movements look like cottage cheese and mustard by the 4th or 5th day of life.
Bowel movements that look like cottage cheese and mustard are called "milk stools." If your baby is still having dark meconium, green, or brown stools by 5 days of age, talk with your healthcare provider or lactation consultant. You should also have your baby weighed to see if he is getting enough milk.
Many breast-fed babies have a bowel movement every time they nurse during their first 3 to 4 weeks of life. If your newborn is having fewer than 4 bowel movements each day, have your baby weighed to see if he is getting enough milk.
Nipple pain that is severe, lasts throughout a feeding, or is not better by 5 days after birth probably means your baby is not nursing right. If your baby doesn't latch on properly to nurse, your infant may not get enough milk. If you have very sore nipples, ask your baby's healthcare provider to check your baby's weight and to refer you to a lactation consultant who can look at how your baby is nursing.
Have your baby weighed regularly. Weight gain is the best way to know your baby is nursing well. If your baby is not gaining enough weight, your milk supply may be low or your baby may not be nursing properly. These problems are easier to overcome if you recognize and treat them early. Your baby's healthcare provider can help develop a feeding plan for you and your baby or can refer you to a lactation consultant.
Breast-feeding causes the release of the hormone oxytocin. This hormone causes the uterus to cramp. These "after-pains" with breast-feeding are more noticeable than any early breast sensations. They usually go away 7 to 10 days after the birth of your baby.
The sensations of the milk ejection reflex are a tingling, pins-and-needles, or tightening feeling in your breasts as milk begins to flow. When your milk let-down happens, your baby may start to gulp milk. Milk may drip or spray from the other breast. You may find that just hearing your baby cry causes your milk to let down, even before your baby starts nursing.