Becoming a parent can be very exciting, but at the same time overwhelming! A lot of unexplainable things are happening to your body. You have yet to adjust to your hormones going crazy while at the same time, advice starts to pour in from all sides. With the throngs of information readily available now, you no longer know which one to believe.
I remember when I gave birth to my daughter. I was very excited to meet with our pedia because I wanted to ask her a question that was giving me sleepless nights. I have been reading lots of books about motherhood and whatnot when I was pregnant but none of them prepared me for the real battle. So when I got the chance to meet face to face with our pediatrician, I asked her
“Doc, my daughter is always fussy. I do not think I am producing enough milk to satisfy her. I might starve her to death.”
She laughed out loud before answering, “Relax. A newborn’s stomach is just the size of a cherry. Your body was designed to create enough milk for your daughter to survive.”
She was right. My body was designed to produce what my daughter needs because I never ran out of milk from Day 1 of my giving birth until now that my daughter is already 5 years old. In fact, I still nurse her to sleep.
You were routed to this page because you have questions about breastfeeding, and we are glad you found us. This article was specially written to help the expecting and breastfeeding mothers understand how much milk they need to provide their babies. Take this handy guide of quick tips from an in-the-know parent to get you started, and give you the confidence you need to embrace your new role as a breastfeeding mother.
How Much Milk Do Breastfed Babies Need?
There is no exact measurement of the amount of milk intake your baby needs. However, it still helps if you have an idea of how much he/she ought to consume, right? Let me give you a mental snapshot of how much milk your baby can take.
A newborn stomach is only the size of a cherry so 5-7 ml of breast milk should be enough. As the child ages, so does their stomach. By day 3, for example, the baby’s stomach is the size of a walnut, so he/she needs around 22-27 ml of breast milk. By one week of age, the stomach expands a little, around the size of an apricot, so 46-60 ml should be enough. When the baby reaches a month old, their stomach grows to the size of an egg so they will be needing at least 80-150 ml.
So yeah, there’s no need to freak out. With their stomach that little, your body will have enough time to adjust to their needs and demands.
What to Expect in the First Few Weeks of Breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is not a walk in the park. I will not say it is easy, because it is not. There are a lot of challenges you will face, especially in the first few weeks. Provided below are some of the most common questions I heard from first-time mothers:
- Is the baby latched on and sucking properly?
- Why am I experiencing nipple pain? Is this normal?
- Do you think my baby is satisfied every after feed?
These are normal issues so if you face one of them, do not freak out. As you go forward with your breastfeeding journey, you will learn proper positioning and everything in between.
When Should You Feed Your Child?
Feed whenever your baby is hungry. Feed on demand rather than a timed set or intervals. It is important to know that breast milk is digested rapidly than formula milk. Thus, a breastfed child tends to get hungry easily. When you notice any sign of hunger on your child, offer your breast. Do not wait for your baby to cry before feeding because it would be more difficult for him/her to latch. Keep in mind that a baby feeds better when calm.
Also, do not forget to feed at night. Remember that babies’ stomach capacity is not big enough to go all night without a feed. Feed your child even if he/she is sleeping. Just offer your breast, they instantly latch on when hungry. If your baby is too sleepy, try to gently tickle and kiss him/her until she perks up. Night feeding is normal.
Remember this rule of thumb: If you are in doubt, offer your breast.
Should You Offer One Breast or Both?
You have two breasts, then why just offer one?
The decision to offer one breast or both breasts in each feeding is a matter of personal preference. Although I suggest, offer both breasts even if your baby seems uninterested. This will stimulate more milk production. Give your child your second breast after “emptying” the first. If your baby is full, then he/she may not accept the second breast. That is fine. Offer the “full” breast first in the next feeding.
Whether you prefer nursing from just one breast or both breasts does not matter. What is important is that your baby is being fed enough and growing at a healthy, consistent pace.
How Can You Tell if Your Baby is Getting Enough Milk?
First-time mothers tend to worry a lot that they are not producing enough milk. I understand the feeling. During the first few weeks of my breastfeeding journey, I thought I might not be providing enough for my daughter. I felt guilty.
If you meet this kind of situation, I hope you do not hastily resort to giving your child formula milk. Do not change your course based on your inexperience and lack of knowledge. When you face this breastfeeding dilemma, ask yourself:
- Is my baby growing and putting on weight?
- Is my baby producing enough wet nappies?
- Is my baby active and responsive?
- Does my baby have a good skin tone?
If you answered YES to all of the above questions, then be reassured that you are doing just fine. Your child will not die of hunger. You are feeding your baby! Carry on.
How Can You Increase Milk Production?
There is no need for intricate science and magic to increase milk production. Simply follow these tips from experienced parents to get you started:
1. Feed on demand
Do you know the theory of supply and demand? When the demand is high, the supply follows.
When there’s a high demand from your baby shown through continued feeding, your body will supply by boosting milk production.
2. Watch What You Eat (and Drink!)
Keep yourself healthy and well-hydrated by eating fruits and vegetables and drinking lots of water. There are some milk-stimulation foods like brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, flax seed meal, and whole oats which can be added on to cookies to boost milk production. These cookies are called lactation cookies.
3. Get More Rest
A relaxed body and cleared mind can do wonders for your milk supply. Having enough sleep helps the body operate at its optimum. Overthinking will not help you achieve your goal.
4. Educate Yourself
The primary reason why first-time mothers are having challenges in breastfeeding is because they lack the right knowledge. Knowing things like the best nursing position, determining if the baby is latching well, or having the right fit with pumping parts can tremendously help in your breastfeeding journey.
When tough gets tougher, seek help. Find someone who can provide an expert opinion on what may be causing your low milk supply. Having a lactation consultant can come in handy.
What if my Baby is Already Eating Solids?
When babies start eating solid foods, which usually starts at six months, their milk intake may begin to decrease. However, medical experts suggest that breastmilk should still provide the majority of baby’s nutrition through the first year. Why? Because even when your baby starts eating solids, they only get a tiny proportion of his calories and nutrients from the food they eats. Your breast milk still provides significant nutrition. And we all want the best for our babies, right?
There is a reason why the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding for two years and beyond. There is no food better for a child than the one coming from a mother’s bosom.
What is the Biggest Misconception about Breastfeeding?
A lot of mothers are scared to breastfeed because they think their babies will need more feeds and a greater amount of milk as they grow older. They are scared to start something they think they cannot sustain.
It is true that babies grow very rapidly. They also have a high metabolic rate during the first few months. The high demand on milk usually happens during growth spurt because babies need it to maintain their metabolism. However, when the child reaches 3 to 6 months, their metabolic rate goes down. This means their growth rate also slows down, resulting in minimum milk consumption.
Your baby does not need to increase his/her milk intake as he/she gets older. When the child starts eating solids, the nursing starts to become shorter and less frequent.
I wish you success in your breastfeeding journey. You might stop along the way but wherever motherhood takes you, just remember that you and your baby are unique. There are myriad breastfeeding advice online but at the end of the day, it is all up to you. Making the decision to breastfeed is a personal matter so we leave you the choice.