What Does a Good Feeding Look Like in a Newborn

By: Michelle Faoro, RN, IBCLC

One of the most common questions new moms and dads ask is “How do I know the baby is getting enough?”  Many parents of beautifully breastfeeding babies top off with formula just to be ensure the baby has had enough. Unlike bottle feeding, we can’t see how much the baby is taking in when breastfeeding but, there are actually plenty of signs that indicate how well your baby is eating even if we don’t know the exact volume. Knowing the signs of effective feeding helps eliminate most of the mystery and can ease some of the anxiety around feeding, especially in the early days.

The following are some of the signs your baby is feeding effectively:

Your baby eats at least 8 -12 times every 24 hours (6-8 minimally on day 1) but, more is ok. Although, its normal for newborns to feed with their eyes closed, only count feeds that the baby was awake enough to actively suck for at least 15 minutes when counting the 8 minimal feeds. 

The latch is not painful for more than a 15-20 seconds with initial latch.

The baby leads in with the chin and latches to the breast, rather than the nipple, asymmetrically (takes more of the bottom of areola than the top) with a wide gape.

The baby demonstrates a strong coordinated sucking pattern with wide jaw movements and audible swallows.

The baby is relaxed and content during and immediately after feeding.

Adequate weight gain (or loss in the first 3-4 days does not exceed 8%)

Your breasts feel full by day 3 after a vaginal delivery and by day 5 after a C-section. 

Your breasts soften after feeding once they have become full.

Your baby should have enough wet and dirty diapers. In the first few days remember to count your baby’s 24 hours beginning from the time of delivery.

Day 1: 1 wet 1 stool  Color: Black

Day 2: 2 wet 2 stool  Color: Black

Day 3: 3 wet 3 stool  Color: Dark green

Day 4: 4 wet 3-4 stool  Color: Green

Day 5: 5-6 wet 3-4 stool Color Greenish-Yellow

Day 6 and on:  6 wet 3-4 stool Color Yellow seedy

When it comes to stool, the color is just as important as the number of stool. 

Diaper output alone is not a reliable indicator of milk intake.  A “whole picture’ approach is the best way to predict how well your baby is feeding however, less than the minimum recommendations for diaper output is absolutely a red flag that needs immediate attention to avoid dehydration and excessive weight loss or poor weight gain. 

Breastfeeding USA’s article on Diaper Output and Milk Intake in the Early Weeks is a great resource: 

https://breastfeedingusa.org/content/article/diaper-output-and-milk-intake-early-weeks

If the baby does not seem to be feeding well you may need to begin pumping to protect your supply and supplementation may be appropriate. If you’re still unsure or feel you need help please reach out to Florida Craniofacial Institute  Breastfeeding. We are here to help you figure out what the issue is or just give some reassurance. 

Call today for a private appointment with the Breastfeeding Team at Florida Craniofacial Institute, we can be reached at 813-870-6000.