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Breastfeeding Myths

A Well-Fed Baby

Myth #4: You can't tell how much milk a baby gets when breastfeeding.

Fact: It's true that the breasts don't have calibrations to allow a mother to know how much milk her baby takes when nursing. While a pediatrician can tell if an infant is getting enough milk by monitoring weight gain (a thriving baby should gain approximately one ounce a day for the first three months of life), new moms must rely on indirect measurements. In the newborn period (the first month of life), the following signs indicate that a baby is eating enough: four or more yellow, seedy bowel movements; six to eight wet diapers daily; and eight to twelve feedings a day. Other signs of successful breastfeeding are: rhythmic suckling and audible swallowing; the mother's sense of let-down or evidence of dripping milk; a decrease in breast fullness at the end of a feeding session; and apparent infant satisfaction after nursing.

If problems arise, new moms should know that there's also an additional tool to evaluate breastfeeding. Known as infant feeding test-weights, the technique involves weighing an infant on a highly accurate electronic scale before and after a breastfeeding session. The change in the baby's pre- and post-feeding weight represents the quantity of milk he has consumed. So if the infant's weight increases by two ounces after a feeding, you can assume that he's just taken two ounces of milk. Keep in mind that for this procedure to be accurate, the infant must be weighed in the same clothing for the pre- and post-feed weights. If the baby has a bowel movement or wets during the measured feeding session, the test-weight will still be accurate, provided you don't change the baby's diaper.

While new moms can have a test-weight at a pediatrician's or lactation consultant's office, this reliable method can also be performed at home, with a highly-accurate rental baby scale. These portable, user-friendly, electronic scales are available from lactation consultants and pump rental stations.

Mothers of high-risk babies such as twins, preterm infants, or babies with birth defects can use a rental scale to take the guesswork out of breastfeeding an at-risk infant. (In many instances, insurance will cover the cost.) But it's also an option for moms who want additional reassurance about their nursing progress. Of course, test-weights taken at home should be discussed with your baby's doctor and jointly interpreted with her. Even if you don't rent a scale, it's important to know that you can call your pediatrician's office -- as often as you like -- and request to take your baby in to be weighed so you can monitor her growth.