To fully establish your milk supply and to maximize your baby's comfort with nursing, breast-feed exclusively for the first three to six weeks. Avoid using bottles during this time; most healthy full term babies get all the nutrition they need from breast milk. After breast-feeding is well established, you may even want to pump your breasts regularly and store the milk in bottles for later feeding.
Although you can't see how much breast milk your baby takes in each time, there are several signs that breast-feeding is going well and your baby is getting enough.
- Wet diapers. Your baby should have at least one to two wet diapers for the first two days and then, starting the third day, at least six wet diapers per day (24 hours). With disposable diapers that wick away any wetness, sometimes the best way to tell if there is urine in it is by checking to see if it's heavier, or feeling the outside of the crotch for warmth.
- Stools. During the first week of life, your baby should have two or more stools per day. The initial thick, dark, sticky, greenish-black meconium stools should change to loose, yellow-green, seedy stools by the third or fourth day. During the second and third week, the number of mustard-colored stools should increase to four or more per day. Many breast-fed babies actually poop each time they nurse. Some breastfed babies, however, poop once a day or less. If it's a lot, and if it's yellow and seedy, it's probably fine, but check with your doctor to be sure.
- Milk supply. Two to four days after delivery, your milk should "come in." Your breasts will feel larger, firmer and warmer as they fill with milk before each feeding, then smaller and softer after your baby has nursed.
- Feedings. Your baby should feed at least eight times every 24 hours. Most newborns nurse every one and a half to three hours (timed from the start of one feeding to the start of the next). Some go three or four hours between feedings at night. During the first two weeks, wake your baby to feed if he sleeps longer than four hours. Most newborn babies nurse 10 minutes or more at each feeding, but every baby is different. After feeding, your baby should seem satisfied and will probably fall asleep.
- Weight. After the first week of life, your newborn should be steadily gaining weight, about one-half ounce to 1 ounce per day (1 to 2 pounds in the first month). The pediatrician will weigh your baby at each visit.