Can I nurse with a pierced nipple?
Yes, nursing mommas ask lactation consultants all kinds of things. Other favorites include: Can I drink some coffee? and How does a pump work?
But by far, the most common question we get is:
Am I making enough milk for my baby?
Monitoring baby’s weight gain over time is the best way to know she’s getting enough milk.
DO NOT take this as permission to go out and buy a scale. First off, a good, hospital-grade one costs, like, $900. (Or the equivalent of one-month’s daycare tuition.) Secondly, you’ve got too much on your plate (or lap or breast) right now with a new baby. Save the baby weighing to the professionals.
I’m excited to share that there are other great ways to know that breastfeeding is going well.
Here are 5 signs your baby’s GOT (enough breast) MILK:
1. Baby likes to eat. A LOT.
Feed your baby very frequently. As in, every time she acts hungry. Typically, 8 to 12 times (or more) a day. Even if baby just finished a meal, she might need more (otherwise known as cluster feeding). Frequent feedings help establish your milk supply and get nursing off to a great start!
Frequent, on-demand, unlimited feedings at an early age ensure baby gets all the milk she needs. This also triggers your body to MAKE LOTS OF MILK in the coming weeks and months. Every time baby latches, your baby is telling your breasts to make more milk. More feeds in the early days means more milk in the coming months.
But how do you know baby has a good latch and is actually getting milk?
2. You can hear baby swallowing.
All that chugging? That’s the sound of baby getting lots of milk!
If you can hear baby swallow frequently from Day 5 on, baby is drinking. Babies who get plenty of milk from breastfeeding suck once or twice, then swallow.
Baby repeats this suck-swallow pattern until…
3. Baby is content and relaxed.
Baby gets tense when she shows hunger cues. Because, um, she’s hungry. (Can you relate? Remember how crazed you felt when you were pregnant and hungry? Like, drop everything and FEED THIS MOM-TO-BE NOW?!) Before they nurse, many babies clench their fists and pull their arms in tight against their bodies.
As you feed baby and you hear that lovely, frequent swallowing, watch her arm and hand. They will begin to loosen and relax, and her fingers will splay open. A hungry baby will pull her arm in if you (gently) pull her hand away from her body. A full, satisfied baby has wet-noddle arms. Baby’s arm is a good gauge as to how satisfied she is after eating.
And a contented momma is another good sign.
4. Your breasts and nipples feel good.
Your baby needs to have a wide mouth and a deep latch to make sure she gets enough milk. If baby has a shallow latch, you can experience sore, painful nipples and engorgement.
You might notice your breasts fill up right before you nurse, and then they get softer during a feeding. This is a good sign that baby is getting lots of milk. She’s emptied the tanks.
In the early days and weeks of breastfeeding, a little discomfort and tugging on the nipples is common, but toe-curling pain is NOT normal. If your nipples hurt so much that it takes your breath away, seek help to adjust baby’s latch. Resources include International Board Certified Lactation Consultants, your OB, baby’s pediatrician, a home health nurse, La Leche League, Mommy & Baby breastfeeding groups at your local hospital.
Healthy, comfortable nipples are a sign that baby is latching well.
Happy baby = happy nipples
Besides frequent feeds, lots of swallowing, a content baby, and content nipples, there’s one other thing to look for.
5. Baby likes to pee and poop. A LOT.
And thus begins your parenting adventure with all things potty related.
What comes out of baby says a lot about what went into baby. If you’re changing a lot of wet diapers and at least a few yellow poopy diapers every day, congrats! Those diaper blowouts, plus all the great signs we’ve already covered, mean you’ve got a happy, satisfied baby. You can be confident she’s getting plenty of milk and your body’s making exactly what baby needs. Your baby definitely has GOT (enough breast) MILK!
Now you can stop worrying about baby’s feeding habits and spend your time trying to catch a little extra sleep. (Good luck with that!) I promise one day baby will sleep through the night – and you can kick sleep deprivation to the curb.
In case you’re still anxious, here are some BONUS TIPS!
Seems like baby wants to eat all.the.time? See #1 above. This is not a sign baby is starving. It’s normal for baby to want to feed very frequently, which ensures she gets fed enough and your body makes enough milk. More sucking = more milk!
Your friend’s baby takes more formula than you pump for YOUR baby.
YOU BE YOU. Moms are valuable resources for each other, but comparing YOUR baby to another baby isn’t a good idea. Babies who drink formula require more than babies who take breast milk.
If you aren’t seeing all 5 signs that your baby’s GOT (enough breast) MILK, or if you have any concerns about it, call baby’s pediatrician or a lactation consultant and get some help. It’s always ok to call and request a weight check.
Nurse on, momma!
About the guest blogger:
Beth Sanders, mom of two boys, a registered nurse, and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, provides in-home lactation consultations in Greensboro, NC and phone or Skype consultations for mothers outside the Greensboro area. Beth has worked in pediatric nursing in NICU, PICU, Pediatric Hematology, Oncology, and Transplant, and Pediatric Home Health since 1994. Beth has been a Certified Lactation Counselor since 2012 and an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant since 2014. In addition to helping mothers in their homes, Beth is an expert consultant at www.tinyhood.com.
Learn more about Beth at www.greensborolactation.com.
Photo by Laura Lee Moreau on Unsplash.com