When it comes to breastfeeding, there can be so many questions. One of the most common is how you know your milk is transferring from breast to baby’s belly. While your confidence in breastfeeding will undoubtedly increase over time, you may find yourself questioning everything those first few days and weeks. But don’t worry. This is normal! As a lactation consultant and mama, I know how hard it can be. I promise you’re not alone.
Milk transfer may be the most critical aspect of breastfeeding. It will not only help your baby grow, stay nourished, and well hydrated, but it will also help you regulate your breast milk supply.
The amount of breast milk you make is based on a supply and demand type system, which means the more milk you remove from the breast, the more milk you make. Conversely, the less milk you remove from the breast, the less milk you make. If your baby cannot transfer milk or has poor milk transfer, your body will assume it doesn’t need to make the milk. Consequently, your milk production will start to slow and possibly stop. There are a variety of reasons why your baby may have a decreased or minimal milk transfer. It is best to navigate these complications with a board-certified lactation consultant.
This is the most common question I receive as a lactation consultant. For some women, this question can cause them fear, anxiety, and concern. For others, this could just be a passing thought. If you’re concerned about how much milk your baby is getting, I highly recommend working with an IBCLC. However, there are some telltale signs that your baby is transferring milk from the breast. They’re pretty easy to detect if you’re looking out for them!
Once your mature breast milk has come in, typically around days 2-5, you will hear your baby swallowing milk at the breast. This sounds like a light “caw” sound, and I recommend listening for it, especially in those first couple of weeks of breastfeeding.
When your baby comes to the breast, they will be rapidly sucking until your breasts release milk. Then the sucks will become more rhythmic and may slow down a bit with rhythmic sucking and swallowing.
Once your baby has fed on both breasts, you will typically notice that they become very content, relaxed, and appear satisfied. This is a great way to tell your baby has transferred enough milk to get them through the next feeding.
When your baby can transfer milk from breast to belly, you will find that before feeding, your breasts may feel full or tight and then feel softer to the touch after your baby has fed.
When your baby is taking in enough breast milk, you will find that they are constantly wet and/or soiling their diaper. Most breastfed babies will have 6-12 wet and dirty diapers daily! Yes, daily! This could mean you have a dirty diaper with every feeding, which is amazing! If you notice your baby does not have wet/dirty diapers, please contact your pediatrician and IBCLC.
Is there any better feeling than going to the pediatrician’s or lactation consultant’s office and putting your baby on the scale and seeing that they have gained 7oz or more in a week? And knowing it was purely your body that has provided them with such nutrients?! I think not! You will know your baby is getting enough breast milk when they gain adequate weight for their age. In the beginning, babies grow very rapidly. By the three-month mark, their growth will continue, but it will slow a bit.
I want to note that for many breastfeeding mamas, it may not be as easy as checking boxes in steps 1-6. Breastfeeding may take weeks or even months to get to a point where it’s smooth sailing. That’s okay. Make sure to lean on your resources as they will be what gets you through and help you and your baby be successful. As stated above, make sure to reach out to your pediatrician and lactation consultant if you believe your baby isn’t gaining weight, taking enough at the breast, having enough wet and dirty diapers, or appears dehydrated.