How to tell if your baby is getting enough milk  

by Kaiser Permanente |
A first time mother is nursing her newborn in the hospital bed after giving birth.

There’s a lot to keep track of once you bring your new baby home. Paying attention to your child’s feedings, diaper changes, and bowel habits can tell you how well you’re feeding them.

What to know about normal feeding

Newborn babies usually breastfeed between 8 and 12 times every day. It’s normal for feedings to last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. It depends on how hungry or sleepy your baby is at the time. Most infants will wake up every 1 to 3 hours to feed.

Some clinicians recommend using a breastfeeding/chestfeeding journal to track your baby’s feedings. This helps you learn about your baby’s feeding patterns. It also lets you know exactly how many times you feed your infant each day. You can use the journal to keep track of wet diapers or bowel movements as well.

Your baby’s feeding habits may change day by day. It’s important to feed your baby whenever they are hungry. There is no need to wait for scheduled feeding times. Just let your baby tell you when they want to eat.

How much milk should my baby eat?

Your baby will eat as much as they need during each feeding. In general, babies who are 1 month old will be taking in about 20 ounces of milk per day. By 3 months, this amount will increase to about 25 ounces. By 6 months, most babies will eat about 30 ounces.

All babies are different, and your baby may want a little more or less milk than the average amount. If you are pumping and bottle feeding, or supplementing your milk supply with formula, keeping track of how many ounces you give your baby in the bottle can be helpful.

Wet diapers

In the first few days of life, newborns usually have about 3 wet diapers each day. After about the fifth day, you should notice an increase in wet diapers to 6 or more per day.

If you are having difficulty identifying whether your baby has a wet diaper, place an unscented facial tissue in the new diaper. You should be able to tell whether it’s wet at the next diaper change.

Your baby’s bowel movements

Over the first week of life, you will find that your newborn gradually has more bowel movements. The number of dirty diapers will depend on your baby. Some babies go each time they’re fed, while others might go once every other day. You can expect your baby’s bowel movements to keep changing in the weeks and months ahead.

Some babies can have as many as 10 bowel movements per day during their first few weeks, so you’ll need to be prepared to change diapers frequently. Your baby’s diaper should be changed as soon as it is wet or soiled to prevent irritation. Never leave your baby in a dirty diaper, since this can cause a diaper rash.

The first sign of a diaper rash is usually redness or small bumps on the buttocks or genitals. If you notice any irritation, apply plenty of diaper rash ointment each time you change your baby’s diaper. If the rash doesn’t improve in 2 to 3 days, call your baby’s clinician.

It’s normal for baby bowel movements to have different colors and textures. You might see:

  • Dark, sticky brown, or black poop. This usually stops around day 3.
  • Green, yellow, or brown poop. You should see this starting around 4 days after birth.
  • Watery poop that looks like it has seeds. This is normal if you’re breastfeeding.

As your baby gets older, they might have fewer bowel movements per day. It’s nothing to worry about as long as you don’t notice any signs of constipation. These can include:

  • Passing hard pellets instead of soft poop.
  • Not eating normally.
  • Passing gas.

Contact your baby’s clinician if you think they might be constipated.

Is this diarrhea?

If you are breastfeeding your baby, it may be hard to tell when they are having diarrhea. Normal stools for a baby consuming human milk are loose (often runny and seedy). Stools are usually yellow, but sometimes can be green. The green color is from bile. Runny stools can even be bordered by a water ring. These are all normal stools.

Breastfed babies often pass more than 6 stools per day. Until 2 months of age, they may pass a stool after each feeding.

If stools suddenly increase in number and looseness, your baby may have diarrhea. If it lasts for 3 or more stools, this is considered to be diarrhea. If the stools contain mucus, blood, or smell bad, this also points to diarrhea. Other clues to diarrhea are poor eating, acting sick, or a fever.

If you are feeding your baby formula, their stools will likely be yellow in color and thick like peanut butter. Once again, if the stools suddenly increase in number or looseness, this points to diarrhea. If it lasts for 3 or more stools, or if your baby exhibits any of the other warning signs, then your baby has diarrhea.

When to contact your baby’s clinician

Paying attention to your baby’s diapers can help you know if there’s a problem. If your baby shows any of the following signs, contact your baby’s clinician right away:

  • Dark, sticky brown, or black poop past day 3
  • Hard, swollen belly
  • Hard stools
  • Less frequent urination
  • Poop that is bloody or white
  • Small amounts of dark urine after day 2
  • Vomiting 3 or more times
  • No urine in over 8 hours, dark urine, or very dry mouth and no tears
  • Fever if your baby is younger than 12 weeks old
  • Fever over 104° F (40° C) at any age

This article has been created by a national group of Kaiser Permanente ob-gyns, certified nurse-midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants and other specialists who came together to provide you with the best pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn information.

Some of the content is used and adapted with permission of The Permanente Medical Group.