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Hungry Or Full: How To Tell If The Baby Needs More Milk

Parents don't need to guess anymore.

One of a parent's biggest concerns when feeding their baby is whether they are getting enough milk. This is the case with breastfeeding moms since they don't have ounce markings on their bodies. They don't see the milk that baby is drinking, which leaves them having to make an educated guess to figure out if the baby is hungry or full.

Though we can't physically see the milk that baby is drinking, we are still able to figure out if he is full through a variety of methods. We can check baby's diaper output and weight for the most obvious signs. Since our bodies are made for breastfeeding, it's hard to believe that they could fail us. Though we make think the baby is doing well, we may be blissfully ignorant to the fact that our baby is dehydrated or starving.

It seems crazy to believe that parents aren't aware their baby is hungry right before their own eyes, but it happens more often than we'd think. It's usually an honest mistake because we miss some very subtle signs that something is wrong with our child. Our baby can't obviously tell us he is still hungry so we are left to figure it out. But where do we figure out what is normal baby behavior (crying, sleeping, and frequent eating) and what is cause for concern?

20 The Number Of Wet Diapers

Via: Mom Loves Best

The number of wet diapers that baby has is one of the easiest ways to tell that she is hydrated. According to KellyMom, for the first week, the baby should have one wet diaper for every day of life (so three diapers on the third day). After that and once mom's milk is in, she should have about 5 to 6 wet diapers in a 24 hour period.

It is likely that the baby may have more than the average 5 to 6. We should really only be concerned if she is having less than that in a 24 hour period. It is likely that the baby is not getting enough milk, our milk isn't coming in, or the baby is dehydrated.

19 The Baby's Feeding Schedule

Babies, especially breastfed ones, cluster feed. It freaks many moms out that baby is eating so frequently! It leads us to worry that there is something wrong with our milk. Cluster feeding consists of a period of time where baby nurses for a little bit, pulls off, fusses, and repeat. According to KellyMom.com, this is a totally NORMAL behavior.

Many of us worry about our milk supply or maybe eating something that is upsetting the baby. Cluster feeding can really be a baby "storing up" so to say to try and sleep longer. It can also just be a period of fussiness the from baby. Breastmilk is digested rather easily and quickly so a breastfed baby will eat more often than a formula fed baby.

18 Meeting Milestones On Time?

If the baby is getting enough milk, it can greatly impact his development. It's hard to roll or giggle when he's hungry (or starving). If the baby is not satisfied, he is likely sleepy. That hinders baby's playtime which makes it tricky to meet milestones. Babies need sufficient nutrients and calories in order to grow and thrive.

According to KidsHealth, failure to thrive is a sign that a child is undernourished. The baby is not getting enough calories to gain weight or grow. A part of baby's growth is meeting milestones like rolling over and crawling. These usually occur between 4 and 8 months of age. Prior to that signs of malnourishment might be that baby isn't holding his head up or smiling at familiar faces.

17 Getting Bigger Or Smaller In Size

Weight gain is something that doctors watch rather closely during the first few months of a baby's life because it signifies how she is growing. According to Dr.Greene.com, a baby should double her birth weight in 4 to 6 months and triple it by 12 months. If the baby is not up to par with this, it can be a sign of baby failing to thrive or being undernourished.

This is one key way to know that the baby is not getting enough milk or that our milk does not have sufficient calories to meet baby's needs. Baby losing weight is also a sign there is a serious problem.

16 Is The Baby Alert?

An alert baby is a good sign. While it is natural and normal for newborns to be sleepy, as baby grows she should be more alert. It is also more difficult to feed a sleepy baby because she will be rather inefficient at nursing. According to KellyMom, an alert and active baby is a sign that baby is full and getting enough milk.

While the baby may be sleepy after a feeding or "milk drunk" as we so lovingly refer to it, she should be alert for decent chunks of time throughout the day. It shows that the baby is staying satisfied and full. If the baby was hungry and not getting enough milk, she would be more sleepy.

15 Does The Baby Seem Happy?

No one is happy when they are hungry. Babies are no exception to the "hangry" fad that we all experience. A full baby is a happy baby (more or less at least). According to KellyMom, just as baby being alert is a good sign being content after a feeding is another means to know that baby is full and satisfied.

If baby's demeanor is content after eating, minus the occasional burp fuss, he is likely getting enough milk. It is important that we pay attention to baby's behavior and manner before, during, and after nursing because it is one of the only ways we can figure out if he is full or still hungry after eating.

14 Fussy = Hungry

There are a variety of milk-related causes for baby's fussiness, according to KellyMom, including low milk supply, forceful letdown, oversupply, and food sensitivities. If the baby is hungry, she is likely to be fussy and rightfully so.

While fussiness can be normal baby behavior, it can also be a sign of hunger. Normal fussiness is usually at a regular period. It occurs around the same time of day, regularly, for a certain period of time. Baby may also be fussy during a growth spurt. Nursing, swaddling, and making sure all of her needs are met should cure the usual fussiness. If not, the baby may not be getting enough milk.

13 Do The Girls Feel Empty?

Via: @usaid

We have felt that sensation of our milk coming in, and the girls being full. We should also feel that they are empty after baby eats. According to KellyMom, they should feel softer than before. Our bodies do some amazing things growing a baby and providing nutrients for them. But nature does falter or fail sometimes and baby is unable to nurse properly.

Issues with latch or tongue ties can prevent baby from being an effective nurser. It may look like she is nursing, but she may not be getting anything. We should be able to see or hear baby drinking and swallowing. The girls should also differ in how hard or full they feel prior to and following a feeding.

12 The Number Of Dirty Diapers

Via: @sen17eca

Just as baby's wet diapers are a clue to how well he is eating, his dirty diapers can also be important to pay attention to. According to KellyMom, the baby should have 3 to 4 dirty diapers by day 4 as a newborn. As he ages, the dirty diapers will become less frequent. It can be normal for a breastfed baby to go several days without a bowel movement though as breastmilk is tailored to meet our baby's specific needs so there is less waste.

Dirty breastmilk diapers are usually seedy and yellow. The mess is also usually pretty loose. If we see something rather different, we should likely consult the baby's doctor just to make sure everything is okay.

11 The Baby Swallows While Eating

Via: @studiothreecrowns

When we breastfeed we can't see how much baby is eating, but we should be able to feel baby suckling. We should also be able to see or hear baby swallowing while she drinks. According to La Leche League of Canada, the baby may have 2 to 3 sucks of milk before swallowing. We should hear a gulp or grunt in between baby's breathing pattern as she gets milk and swallows it. The frequency of swallowing may be more often if we have a fast let down or large supply.

If the baby is swallowing while eating, it can reassure mom that she has a good supply. It can also help us know that baby has a sufficient latch while nursing as well. If baby's latch was off, the swallowing noise would be more of a clicking sound.

10 There's A Milk Leak

Being able to physically see our milk is a great sign. If we can see our milk, we obviously know we have it. On the flip side though, not having any leakage once our supply stabilizes to meet baby's specific needs we likely have less leakage according to KellyMom.

Milk leakage is more common in the early days of breastfeeding as our milk comes in and regulates to what our baby needs. Many women do worry though that our breasts aren't leaking or leaking "enough" or as much as before. Once our supply stabilizes though, leaking isn't as common or reliable as a means to know how our supply is doing. We should pay more attention to baby's weight gain and wet diapers.

9 Pay Attention To The Baby's Facial Features

Via: @puremomco

Insufficient and unsuccessful breastfeeding is one of the leading reasons for malnourishment in infants under 6 months old as reported by the World Health Organization. Whether issues be with baby's ability to effectively nurse or mom's milk, it can be pretty serious when baby starts to lose weight.

Baby may lose hair, more than the normal amount. Her sign may darken and sink in from the loss of fat. Baby may appear lethargic and have dry skin on her face. She may have skin that hangs or droops on her face. One common sign is sunken in cheeks from fat that baby has lost.

8 Yellow Skin?

Via: @mother_of_little_hoos

The yellowing of a baby's skin is called jaundice. It is something that can develop in the days after birth for over half of full-term babies. Jaundice can also be influenced by breastfeeding.

According to AmericanPregnancy.org, breastfeeding jaundice is caused by the baby not getting enough milk. Milk is necessary to help the baby produce waste. Obviously, without enough milk, it is taking baby longer to pass bowel movements. This causes a build up of bilirubin, which is what turns baby's skin yellowish.

This is most common when baby has an inefficient latch or is too sleepy to nurse enough. A lactation consultant can usually help mom and baby get back on track. Sometimes bottle feeding or supplementing is essential to getting baby's levels back to normal.

7 Hear Clicking Noises While Feeding?

Via: @mami.von.emma

A clicking noise while eating is usually in place of a swallowing noise or gulp that we would generally expect and hear. It can be a sign that the baby is having trouble with his latch. According to La Leche League Canada, this clicking noise if usually accompanied by dimples in baby's cheeks as he eats. Mom may also be sore from baby's latch and nursing.

Problems with latch can happen for one specific feeding simply because the baby was positioned oddly. It can also be a more regular problem that requires attention because the baby is likely hungry and not getting enough milk.

6 The Baby Must Be Woken Up To Eat

Via: The Baby Website

According to the World Health Organization, if the baby is malnourished he is likely rather lethargic. For newborns, it is more normal to be sleepy. During that time it is important we wake baby to eat every 3 to 4 hours generally. If we don't, it can hurt our supply and cause further complications for the baby.

A lethargic baby is an ineffective nurser. It is likely that he isn't getting sufficient milk when he does eat which is causing him to continue to be lethargic. If the baby is no longer in the early weeks, it is not a good sign if we continuously have to wake him up to feed him. A full baby should be content and alert during the day. Alertness is necessary for the baby to play, develop, grow, and reach milestones.

5 Nursing For Too Long Or Too Short

How long baby nurses can vary rather greatly. Anywhere from about 10 to 45 minutes can be considered "normal." According to KidsHealth.org, it should generally take an established nursing baby about 5 to 10 minutes per side. This can vary though as the baby goes through growth spurts, fussy periods, or simply wants mom.

If the baby is only latching on for a few minutes and falling asleep before emptying one side, it is more of a cause for concern. If the baby is drinking for a long period of time and mom still feels full, it is likely she is not effective at breastfeeding. These can be signs that there is trouble with our supply, let down, or baby's latch.

4 Engorgement Issues

So we know the girls are supposed to get bigger when we are breastfeeding. But there can also be problems with our new larger bust size. Engorgement is a problem some women experience while breastfeeding. It is normal for less than 24 hours when our milk first comes in somewhere between day 2 and day 5.

According to KellyMom, engorgement that is a problem is when the girls feel hot, swollen, and tender. We may feel it all the way up to our armpit. Yikes. Engorgement can happen when the baby is not properly nursing. She is likely ineffective at emptying us which can cause problems. Baby's latch can also be a factor in mom's engorgement.

3 Is The Baby Able To Suck?

Via: Petit Bello

Our anatomy is obviously a pretty big part of breastfeeding. Though it's natural, sometimes our bodies have less than desirable traits for baby to be an effective nurser. Small, flat, and inverted are all labels that can cause a problem when it comes to baby's ability to be a proficient breastfeeder. According to KellyMom, large and long are also reasons why the baby may have trouble latching on properly.

Nipple shields are often used in these situations to help baby get the hang of things. A lactation consultant can be mom's best friend and help her and baby get things done. If the baby can't get the hang of things, it can be a serious problem as she won't be able to get sufficient calories or milk. It can hurt the baby's growth as well as mom's milk supply.

2 It’s Painful

Via: Today's Parent

Believe it or not, breastfeeding isn't supposed to be painful. Some people describe it as toe-curling pain. The only pain we should experience though should be cracked nipples or our uterus contracting as we feed during the first days after birth. Some pain as we get used to the sensation of breastfeeding is normal. We need to "toughen" the area so to say. That does not mean that it should be so hard that we are suffering for weeks on end in order to feed our baby.

According to KellyMom, a shallow latch can cause mom to have continuous and rather severe pain. This shallow latch can also impact how much milk baby gets and how effective he is at getting enough milk.

1 The Baby Has A Tie

Via: Insured Ameda Direct

Lip and tongue ties can be a major pain in the behind when it comes to breastfeeding successfully. We would think that with the number of doctors and nurses we see while in the hospital that baby's tie would be noticed right away. It can actually take a few weeks after birth though for mom, baby, and a lactation consultant to figure things out.

According to BreastfeedingUSA.org, a tongue tie to increase their suction while nursing which can cause mom pain. They have trouble maintaining their latch and may make a clicking noise while nursing or simply detach altogether. This can cause the baby to not successfully empty mom, causing the baby to be hungry and mom's supply to dwindle.

Sources: KellyMom, KellyMom, KidsHealth, Dr.Greene, LaLecheCanada, KellyMom, WHO, AmericanPregnancy, KidsHealth, KellyMom, KellyMom, BreastfeedingUSA

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Hungry Or Full: How To Tell If The Baby Needs More Milk