The first week is an especially important time as we want to make sure meconium passes out of the baby's system, that they remain well hydrated, and that they can start gaining weight when expected. So how can we tell if breastfeeding is going well in that first week? Well, the most important thing we need to remember is that we can't rely on the numbers alone to tell us if things are going well.
"He's feeding 10 times a day so things must be ok!"
"She's on for 50 minutes each time so she must be getting lots!"
"He's lost almost 10% of his birthweight so you should start topping up with formula"
I have heard these comments over and over again in my years supporting families. And while numbers can be helpful in the overall assessment, they by themselves don't give us enough information.
Numbers can give us a false sense of security or be a cause for unnecessary intervention. This is something Dr. Jack Newman and his team have been educating families on for years. The number of feeds, length of feedings, and the % weight loss don't tell us if a baby is feeding well at the breast. We need to look at the baby and see whether they are actually drinking or not and then manage the feeding to support the baby's drinking. This is done by using breast compressions and switching breasts when the baby is no longer drinking. The clock and scale have nothing to do with that part.
Looking for a motion in the jaw where the chin drops down deeper and pauses before coming back up again tells us a mouthful of milk was swallowed. This is much easier to understand by seeing it in person or by watching a video. The International Breastfeeding Centre has some great videos of what "drinking" looks like so check it out if you need to.
The number of diapers (pees, poos, and their colour) are more reflective of what is actually going in, and for that reason, are important to be aware of in that first week. Check out the chart below - for any parents to be out there, it will give you some guidance. (It was made in collaboration with two lovely women and fellow IBCLCs, Ashley Pickett and Kristi Prince).
Of course when in doubt or if you need assistance, reach out to your local Lactation Consultant!