It’s common for mothers to worry whether they have enough breastmilk for their babies. While it’s a common concern, the good news is most mothers are able to make plenty of milk for their babies’ needs. However, there are some mothers who wonder, “How much breastmilk does my baby need?”
Some mothers find it disconcerting that they cannot see how much their baby is drinking when they breastfeed.
This could stem somewhat from the widespread use of formula, which needs to be precisely measured.
How Much Breastmilk Does My Baby Need?
So, since you cannot measure how much your baby is drinking at the breast, how can you tell if your baby is getting enough? This article will help you figure it out.
If Your Baby Shows Reliable Signs Of Getting Enough, She Is!
The good news is that although you cannot see how much your baby drinks at the breast, there are still reliable ways to tell you she is getting enough milk.
You can look at things like her growth, and her nappies, as discussed in this article. If she is showing reliable signs of getting enough breastmilk, she is!
How can you make sure your baby is getting enough breastmilk?
Watch Your Baby, Not The Clock
It’s very important to watch your baby, not the clock; don’t worry about a measurement, or any other scheduling ‘rules’. Feed her according to her individual need (i.e. when she shows feeding cues) and this will ensure she gets the milk she needs.
Early (starting in the first hour after your baby is born), frequent, and effective milk removal helps establish a good supply. On the other hand, many women who use feeding schedules in the early weeks end up with a low supply weeks or months down the track.
This is because restricting feeds, or repeatedly spacing them out with dummies, can limit how often and well milk is removed from your breasts. Over time, this reduces the amount of milk your breasts make.
How much milk mothers can store in their breasts between feeds (storage capacity) varies between women; there is no one rule for all. Some mothers have a smaller storage capacity, and will need to feed more frequently than others who have a larger storage capacity.
You can read more here about how breastfeeding works.
But what about expressing? How much should you express for your baby?
Breastmilk Intake Varies Between Babies
In the period immediately after birth, there is a rapid increase in breastmilk intake by babies. For information about volumes consumed by a breastfed baby in the early days, refer to the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine supplementation protocol.
Somewhere between one week and one month, a baby’s intake levels out. Once this levelling-out occurs, research shows that for an exclusively breastfed baby between the ages of 1 and 6 months, the average volume consumed in 24 hours is 788ml (the range being 478ml to 1356ml).
With such a wide range of intake volumes, the only precise way to make sure your baby gets the amount of milk she needs is to breastfeed her whenever she needs to be fed, provided she is removing milk well.
If you are expressing, (e.g. because you are leaving your 1-6 month old baby with a caregiver for a feed or two), here’s how to work out the approximate volume to leave.
Let’s say your baby typically feeds 8 times in a 24 hour period. And, just to make the maths easier, an exclusively breastfed baby’s average 24 hour intake is 800ml. That means an approximate volume per feed is 800ml divided by 8 feeds, which equals 100ml.
It doesn’t matter if this amount is a bit too much or too little; when you go back to breastfeeding your baby, she can adjust her intake accordingly.
If you were expressing full time for your baby, then you’d want to aim for an average 24 hour volume of around 800ml.
So relax, stop thinking about measuring, and you’ll enjoy your breastfeeding journey so much more. After all, it’s such a short time in your baby’s life that you’ll probably miss those beautiful breastfeeding times once they’re gone.