Who knew that such a tiny little person could eat so much?
Planning on breastfeeding your new baby? You will be in for a surprise when you see how much your baby can eat. You may begin feeling like your baby’s routine is just a constant cycle of eat, sleep, poop (which it is to some degree).
As a mother who breastfed, I know there are a lot of questions that will run through your mind: How much does my baby actually eat? How do I know if she is getting enough? Is she hungry, or is it something else? Am I producing enough milk for her?
We are here to answer your questions, and, hopefully, ease your mind and eliminate your worries. But before we get into the nitty gritty of breastfeeding, let us address this question:
Table of Contents
- 1 Why Choose Breastfeeding?
- 2 What is the Difference between the Breast and the Bottle?
- 3 How Do I Know If My Baby is Hungry?
- 4 Is My Baby Getting Enough to Eat?
- 5 How Can I Increase My Milk Supply?
- 6 Final Word
Why Choose Breastfeeding?
There are so many benefits that come with breastfeeding which is why it is considered by many, including myself, to be the best choice for mother and baby. Besides the obvious things – it is free, requires no preparation, and easily portable – there are great health and psychological benefits for mom and baby.
Breast milk is superior in its health benefits. It has the ability to adapt to a baby’s needs, providing her with all of the vitamins and minerals she needs to grow, and the antibodies she needs to build her immune system.
Studies have also shown that babies who were breastfed are less likely to have problems with obesity, in early childhood and adulthood, and other ailments related to it.
Breastfeeding promotes bonding between mother and baby, which produces great psychological benefits for both. The release of hormones in the mother’s body leaves her feeling more relaxed and eliminates stress and depression.
A baby’s tight bond with its mother promotes the development of healthy interpersonal relationships.
What is the Difference between the Breast and the Bottle?
Choosing breast milk for your baby is one of the best decisions you can make for her, but how that milk is given to her is also a very important decision. There are benefits to both, and knowing the difference can help you understand your baby and her habits a little bit better.
As we mentioned, babies eat a lot, and babies who are breastfed nurse more than those that are formula fed. Breast milk is digested very quickly, which means your baby is often ready to eat again within 90-120 minutes after your last nursing session.
That leaves you with a grand total of 8-12 feedings in a 24-hour period (for a newborn)!
So, how much is your baby eating at each nursing session? Well, on average newborn babies need to consume about 2-3 ounces of breast milk per pound of their body weight per day. With my baby being born just a little under 10 pounds, that meant about 20-30 ounces per day. And if you have ever pumped, you will know that is no easy feat. (1)
If you are unsure, pumping and feeding your baby by bottle can help you determine exactly how much she is eating per day. However, it has been shown that babies who are bottle fed tend to eat more than those that nurse directly from the breast.
When a baby breastfeeds, she has more control of the ebb and flow of milk. The milk will only flow as she sucks at the breast. On the other hand, bottles have a more continuous flow, which means your baby will probably eat more. Also, since the mother can see that there is still milk remaining, she will often encourage baby to finish, not knowing that she is full. (2)
The amount of time your baby spends at each feeding will also vary between bottle and breast. Since bottles have a continuous flow, babies who are fed from them do not typically spend much time feeding at each session.
When feeding from the breast, babies can take as long as 20-30 minutes per feeding, especially in the earlier weeks before your milk supply has been established.
How Do I Know If My Baby is Hungry?
With time, breastfeeding will allow you to learn your baby’s cues, both when she is full and when she is hungry, but until that time comes, here are some general clues to look for:
- Head moving side to side, searching for the breast
- Putting fists or fingers in the mouth, and sucking
- Moving the head or mouth in the direction of something that strokes the cheek (rooting reflex)
It is important to keep an eye out for these cues and cater to them beforeyour baby starts to cry, as crying is a late sign of hunger. If your baby gets too upset if she is not fed quickly, you may need to take time to calm her down before she can properly latch and suckle.
Is My Baby Getting Enough to Eat?
This is every mother’s concern, especially the breastfeeding mother, who cannot see exactly how much she is expressing or how much her baby is eating. Thankfully, there are signs you can look for that will let you know how much your baby is eating and if she is getting enough.
Number of Dirty Diapers
Since breast milk is digested very quickly, your baby will go through a lotof diapers, and the number of poopy and wet diapers she has per day will let you how she is eating.
Babies should have about 4-6 wet diapers per day and regular bowel movements (1-2 per day on average). If you are not changing at least 5-6 diapers a day, dirty and wet, your baby may not be getting enough to eat.
Unlike most adults, you want your baby to gain weight. From birth to 6 months of age, you should expect your baby to just about double her birth weight. (3) Healthy weight gain is a good sign that your baby is getting enough t
o eat. Your pediatrician will help you keep track of your baby’s growth and let you know if there are any concerns.
As you are feeding your baby, watch for signs that she is full. She will begin to slow down, and become uninterested in the breast and may start to turn away. If your baby is full, she will likely be happy and satisfied, and she will probably sleep a lot easier.
Now, as a side note, there may be times when it seems like your baby should be full but she is unsatisfied and wants to keep eating. Do not panic and jump to the conclusion that she is not getting enough to eat, especially if this excess hunger is out of the ordinary.
Instead, your baby may simply be growing through a growth spurt. These typically occur around 1-2 weeks, 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months of age, in the earlier months. During these growth spurts, it is very likely that your baby will want to eat more to feed her hard-working body.
If you do not see any of these things with your baby, she may not be getting enough to eat. Contact your doctor and pediatrician with any concerns. (4) Also,try pumping to see how much milk you are producing. If your milk supply is low, keep reading to get some tips on increasing it.
How Can I Increase My Milk Supply?
If your milk supply is truly low, try some of these tips and tricks (5):
Your body needs water to produce milk. Keep a bottle with you or at your normal nursing spot in the house and drink some water at each feeding to make sure you stay hydrated. Also, be sure to stay away from alcohol and caffeinated drinks as these can dehydrate you and hinder your milk supply.
Eat a Balanced Diet
What you eat directly affects your milk supply. A healthy, well-rounded diet, with plenty of vegetables and protein, will ensure that your body is getting all the vitamins and nutrients it needs to keep producing.
Reduce Stress and Rest:
Having a new baby means less sleep and more stress, both of which can lead to you reaching your limit, either burning out or getting sick. These can greatly affect your milk supply, so ask dad or someone else to give you a hand, taking some chores off your plate or just allowing you to get a few minutes of shut-eye.
There are great herbal remedies for low milk supply as well, and the best is fenugreek. Available in tea and capsules, fenugreek has been trusted for years to help mothers increase their milk supply, both in short and long term.
Having a new baby bring so much joy, but that joy can quickly flee in the face of stress and exhaustion. Your little bundle will demand a lot from you if you are breastfeeding, as she eats a lot, enough to double her weight within the first six months of life. But seeing that little smiling face and knowing that you are giving her the best possible nutrition available will help renew that joy every day.
If you have concerns or questions about how much your baby is (or is not) eating, or if you have tips about low milk supply, share in comments below. And share this article with moms like you who could use a little bit of help or reassurance.