How to Know if Your Baby is Eating Enough

By Marlena Carrillo
Woman in white shirt holding newborn

Feeding your baby is not an exact science. As a new parent, it’s easy to be scared your instincts aren’t right or you’re missing cues from your newborn. Here’s a guide to knowing if your baby is eating enough – and what to do if they’re not getting what they need.

What does a full baby look like?

Newborns use gestures and sounds to show how they feel. A full baby is a content one. When they aren’t hungry, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say babies’ hands will relax and their heads will turn away from their food source to indicate they don’t want any more. They will also close their mouths instead of making an expectant pouty face.

When newborns get enough to eat each day, they begin to act routinely about five days after birth. If breastfeeding, La Leche League International said large gulps of milk indicate a letdown, which means a flood of milk is coming in and your baby is getting nourished.

After five days, newborn stools should be yellow with a grainy texture. During this time, wet diapers will also increase from around two per day to six or more – check the vertical line on many diapers that change color to indicate dampness.

What does a hungry baby look like?

A hungry newborn is the opposite of a full one. Their hands might clench in frustration, and they might bring their fists to their mouths and open and close their lips, even sucking their thumbs or fingers. Older newborns will begin to cry and make sounds when they’re hungry. Babies will also turn their heads to the bottle or breast when they can see them like a puppy seeking out a treat.

Babies who aren’t getting enough to eat will be lacking in energy, which can make them sleep more than usual. They also won’t poop as much; the typical baby will go between three and four times per day.

Finally, babies might gain weight slower than usual if they aren’t eating enough. Between 5.5 and 8.5 ounces is the normal weight gain per week for a newborn, according to La Leche League International.

Consider your own instincts and observations, too; if you’re breastfeeding and feedings are painful or your baby appears to be latching incorrectly, this can be a good indicator they aren’t getting enough milk.

What do I do if my baby isn’t getting enough to eat?

The Mayo Clinic says consulting your child’s pediatrician or a lactation consultant is a safe choice if you’re concerned about their nutrition. They may also direct you to consider supplements for nutrients your baby might not be getting from milk, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Vitamin D helps babies grow strong bones, and they might not get enough from their natural diets.

It’s hard to feed a human who can’t tell you when they’re satisfied. Use these observations and a discussion with your child’s pediatrician to determine if your baby is getting what they need.


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