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Effective feeding

It is very common to be worried that your baby isn’t growing properly or seems to not be getting enough food. We are often presented with an ideal image of the “bonny baby” who simply grows and grows and it can create doubt in our minds.

Growth charts

Not all babies fit an exact pattern of growth, but we can say with a great deal of accuracy what the general growth curve for babies looks like and what is normal both above and below that curve.

For many years, the growth charts that you will see health professionals use were based on bottle-fed babies. Because bottle-fed babies will usually put on weight more quickly than breastfed babies, a perception emerged that breastfed babies were underfed as they lagged behind the growth curve. In 2009, the WHO developed new growth charts based on the growth patterns of breastfed babies which made it clear that the growth pattern was very different and that a slow rate of growth in the first week or so was normal. You can view the growth charts here.

Your body will naturally produce enough milk to meet your baby’s needs if it is working on a “supply and demand” basis (see baby-led feeding).

Signs that your baby may not be receiving enough milk include:

  • Poor urine output (less than 3 heavy, wet nappies every 24 hours by day three and less than 6 every 24 hours by day six)
  • Jaundice
  • Poor weight gain (your midwife or health visitor will check this with you)
  • Engorged or painful breasts (if your baby is not feeding effectively, your breasts will not be being drained of milk and may become swollen)

Your midwife or health visitor should help you to recognise these signs and also to work with you to check that your baby is feeding effectively and help you solve the problems if he is not. Nine times out of ten, checking your breastfeeding technique will help resolve these problems.

You can see videos here showing effective and ineffective attachment.

Click here to see a full video of a mother getting help from a breastfeeding counsellor.

FAQs

I have rather small breasts and I’m worried about producing enough milk.

The size of your breasts has nothing to do with the amount of milk you can produce. During pregnancy, your body is setting you up to be ready to breastfeed by producing the hormones necessary to allow you to make breastmilk. Once your baby is born, it is important to learn to recognise his feeding cues and feed on demand. This helps set up your body to react to his needs by producing the right amount of milk.

I’m feeding on demand but he’s still waking up hungry in the middle of the night?

Babies will need to feed regularly at night, so it is not uncommon to have to get up a couple of times a night to feed him. Double-check that it is definitely hunger that is waking him up by seeing if he is displaying feeding cues (rooting, sucking his fists). Check that he is positioned and attached properly so that he can feed effectively – do your breasts feel suitably ‘drained’ afterwards? If you are still concerned he is not receiving enough food consult your health visitor.