New parents often worry about whether their baby is feeding well. We provide answers to questions, such as how much milk a baby should drink and more.
How much milk does a baby need?
A breastfed baby who is fed on demand can't be overfed. Although you can't measure how much milk a breastfed baby is drinking, they will come off the breast when they have had enough, and will ask for more if they want to stimulate your supply (see our article 'Breastfeeding - How much, how often'). How much milk a baby should drink varies from child to child. Importantly, your breasts and nipples should not be sore when or after breastfeeding. If they are, do ask for help.
A formula fed baby will need to be fed according to the guidelines for their weight and age, and the instructions for the brand of formula.
Whether you are breastfeeding or formula feeding, you will be able tell if your child is thriving or not feeding well by the contents of their nappy, their behaviour, and whether they are growing and putting on weight.
How do I know that my baby is thriving?
There are different weight charts your health visitor or midwife may refer to, but any weight chart used needs to be interpreted for each individual baby, taking various factors into account before figuring out whether or not your child is getting enough milk.
Weighing needs to be combined with looking at how the baby is overall, and weight changes interpreted carefully. A child’s appearance and behaviour are useful guides to whether they are thriving. A thriving baby has good skin colour, is alert when awake, asks for feeds and is usually satisfied after them. A child who seems lethargic - but is not ill - probably needs more milk. The amount of weeing and pooing is also a useful sign (read more in our article 'Newborn baby poo in nappies: what to expect').
Is my baby getting enough milk?
In the first 48 hours, your baby is likely to have only two or three wet nappies. Wet nappies should then start to become more frequent, with at least six every 24 hours from day five onwards. Their urine should be pale and not dark brown. After the initial meconium, your baby should be passing creamy yellow stools every day (read more here). If you're formula feeding, your child's stools may be more solid.
Most babies lose weight initially so don't be alarmed if yours does. They should be weighed by a health professional some time around day three to five. From then on, they should start to gain weight. Most babies regain their birth weight in the first two weeks.
A baby who has dryish nappies and scanty poos is not taking in enough milk. Talk to your health visitor, midwife or a breastfeeding counsellor if this is the case.
Last updated: June 2015
NCT supports all parents, however they feed their child. If you have questions, concerns or need support, you can speak to a breastfeeding counsellor by calling our helpline on 0300 330 0700, whether you are exclusively breastfeeding or using formula milk.
Breastfeeding counsellors have had extensive training, will listen without judging or criticising and will offer relevant information and suggestions. You can also find more useful articles here.
NCT Helpline: 0300 330 0700