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Breastfeeding Baby: How Much Milk Does Your Baby Need?

Tracy Cross, BSN, RN, IBCLC, RLC, is a registered nurse and certified lactation consultant. She is the clinical nurse manager of lactation and family education at Inova Loudoun Hospital.

It’s normal for new parents to have a lot of questions. Among the most common worries for new moms: Is my baby getting enough to eat? How can I tell for sure? Am I doing this breastfeeding thing right?!

Take a deep breath. We’re here to answer your questions — and help you make sure your baby gets the nutrition he or she needs to thrive.

Q: How much milk should a newborn drink?

A: A newborn’s tiny stomach can’t hold much. But it’s just the right size for the thick, antibody-rich colostrum, or “first milk,” that mothers produce in the days after birth.

On the first day of life, you should feed your baby 8 to 10 times during the 24-hour period. If you’re bottle feeding, plan to feed about 10 to 15 milliliters of formula in the first 24 hours. Frequent feedings will help the baby maintain a healthy blood sugar and learn to coordinate sucking, swallowing and breathing.

The baby’s appetite — and stomach capacity — grow quickly. By day 3, babies should be drinking 30 to 60 milliliters at each feeding. Ideally, a breastfeeding mom’s full milk supply will come in by the time the baby is 3 to 5 days old.

Q: Do I need to supplement my breastmilk with formula?

A: Most babies don’t need formula in addition to breastmilk, but in some cases we recommend supplementation. Some situations that might call for adding formula:

  • The baby loses 10% or more of his weight.
  • Baby has low blood sugar that doesn’t respond to treatment.
  • The infant isn’t producing enough urine or stool.
  • The mother or baby have certain medical problems (such as jaundice) or are taking medications that affect milk supply or feeding.

If you’re concerned about whether your baby is getting enough to eat, a visit with a lactation consultant can help you spot any problems.

Q: What are the signs my newborn is hungry (or full)?

A: The first clues your baby is hungry include:

  • Moving her head side to side
  • Smacking his lips
  • Trying to bring her hands to her mouth
  • Flexing his body, with arms and legs bent

Usually, babies show these signs first, before they begin crying from hunger. When a baby is full after a meal, their body and legs will be relaxed, and they’ll often be drowsy.

Q: What happens if my baby isn’t getting enough milk?

A: Underfeeding an infant can result in decreased milk supply, which can lead to low blood sugar or other medical issues in the baby. Remember: What goes in must come out. If your baby is producing enough wet and dirty diapers, it’s a good sign he’s eating enough. But if you see a drop in the number of soiled diapers, you should reach out to your pediatrician right away.

Q: Can I overfeed my baby?

A: In the early days, it is possible to feed your baby too much. If the baby is fussy, spitting up frequently or showing signs of reflux or upset stomach, she might be taking in too much milk. Continued overfeeding can cause the baby to refuse to nurse, so it’s important to talk to your doctor if you suspect she’s showing signs of overfeeding.

Q: I still have questions. Can you help?

A: We sure can! Lactation consultants are trained feeding specialists, and we’re here to help you meet your breastfeeding goals. Breastfeeding is our passion, and we’re happy to meet any time —during pregnancy, at birth or after you’ve brought your baby home.

The Inova Loudoun Hospital Lactation Center and Boutique offers both inpatient and outpatient lactation services. We also offer a free drop-in program every Wednesday from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Come to ask questions or let us check that your baby is latching correctly.

Contact us with breastfeeding questions at 703-858-8072, and we’ll return the call within 24 hours. For more information, contact me at tracy.cross@inova.org.

Or visit Inova’s other breastfeeding resources and support groups closer to you:

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