How do I know if my baby is getting enough nourishment?

Fortunately, new moms aren’t left to rely solely on their instincts when it comes to feeding their infants. There are signs you can watch for that will help you gauge whether your newborn is getting the nourishment she needs.

Follow Your Baby’s Cues

  • Your baby will let you know when she’s hungry by fussing and crying.
  • During feeding, it’s easy enough to get a visual read on how much she’s taking in if she’s feeding from a bottle. Breast-feeding moms, who can’t actually see the milk flow, can listen for the sound of their babies sucking and swallowing, and they may see milk around their babies’ mouths.  
  • In the days after birth, your baby will excrete a dark, tarry meconium. As your true breast milk begins to come in (replacing the colostrum), her poops will transition to a green colour, soon giving way to mustardy yellow stools, as your baby takes more volume. Also, urine output will increase.
  • When your baby becomes fidgety and turns away during a feeding, she’s telling you that she’s had enough. Pay attention to her signals, rather than basing feedings strictly on length of time or, in the case of bottle-feeding, how many ounces she’s taken. 
  • Note your baby’s behaviour after feedings, too. For an hour or so after nursing, a well-fed baby should seem satisfied and content.

Do the Math

Keep in mind that these are only rough measures.

  • Most breast-fed newborns feed eight to 12 times in 24 hours. Think of it as “the two to four rule”: Most infants will feed about every two to four hours for the first two to four months of their life. What’s more, bottle-fed babies take from 2 to 4 ounces of formula. Some days your baby may feed more often or take more volume, but the amount averages out over time. No healthy baby will starve herself. If the milk is available to your baby, she will take what she needs and push away when she’s done.
  • Track diaper changes. Your baby should have 6 or more wet their diapers in a 24-hour period Urinating is an important sign of hydration. Bowel movements may be very frequent in the beginning, sometimes occurring after every feeding. They may continue that way, or they may decrease to once or twice per day. Your baby may also skip days entirely or have a stool only once per week. All of these scenarios are considered normal.
  • Monitor your baby’s weight under her doctor’s supervision. Your newborn may lose up to 10 percent of her weight in the first week of life. But she should regain it by the end of the second week and continue to gain at a steady rate.

—Scott Cohen, MD, pediatrician and author of Eat, Sleep, Poop: A Common Sense Guide to Your Baby’s First Year