Breastfeeding was not at all like I had thought it would be. For some reason, I never worried about my milk supply, or whether my kids would have trouble latching on. I assumed it would be as easy for me as it had been for my friends who managed to nurse for a year or longer. I didn't even know that there were red flags that appear in a breastfed baby.
Soon enough, however, I learned that for me, breastfeeding was not going to be easy. My son struggled to latch, I felt as though I wasn't making enough milk, and I started noticing some signs that maybe my baby wasn't being adequately nourished. Out of fear, exhaustion, and lack of information, I started supplementing with formula. And I know I'm not the only mom who has done this.
Like me, many new moms don't realize that getting good at nursing takes time and practice. This can mean reaching out to a lactation consultant for an evaluation at the first red flag that there's a problem. It may be uncomfortable to invite a stranger to observe and advise on something so personal, but if you are able to improve your breastfeeding experience, it will be well worth it, for you and your baby.
Here are some of the red flags you should watch out for in your breastfed baby.
1. Your Baby Nurses Often But Isn't Gaining Weight
According to Kelly Mom, the average breastfed baby gains about six ounces per week. If your baby is nursing often, but isn't gaining the expected amount of weight, you should contact your child's pediatrician and a lactation consultant right away.
Mary Unangst, an IBCLC from Sweet Songs Breastfeeding tells Romper that she and her colleagues use very sensitive scales to weigh a baby before and after they eat to determine exactly how much is being transferred from the breast. They assess for maternal risk factors that might cause the mom to have a low milk supply and perform a suck assessment of baby. Babies who do not have an adequate latch or suck, could have a medical condition such as ankyloglossia, also known as "tongue tie" that can be corrected through minor surgery.
2. Your Baby Doesn't Have Many Wet Or Dirty Diapers
Kelly Mom also noted that although babies don't have many dirty diapers in their first couple of days of life, after day four, your baby should have at least three to four stools daily that are the size of a U.S. quarter or larger. At this point their stools should be yellow, according to Breastfeeding USA. If your baby isn't dirtying enough diapers, it could be a sign that they are not eating enough.
3. Your Baby Immediately Falls Asleep At The Breast
IBCLC Cleo Marchese, of the website Natural Beginnings, suggested that it could be a sign that your baby is not getting enough to eat if they fall asleep immediately when put to the breast without active sucking and swallowing. Although most babies fall asleep during nursing, they usually keep feeding. It becomes a problem if your baby falls asleep right away and doesn't continue to feed.
4. Your Baby's Skin & Eyes Are Yellowing
If your baby's skin or the whites of their eyes begin to yellow, it may be due to a condition known as jaundice. According to the American Pregnancy Association, jaundice is a condition that can occur in newborns within two to three days of birth and is caused by elevated bilirubin levels. Jaundice can be triggered by several reasons, but one could be a low intake of breast milk. Without adequate bowel movements, the baby's body cannot secrete the the buildup of bilirubin. Jaundice can be dangerous, and you should contact your doctor immediately if you notice yellowing of the skin or eyes.
5. Your Baby Chokes, Gags, Or Sputters During Breastfeeding
Oversupply also known as forceful letdown is the rush of milk from an overfull breast that can cause babies to have a difficult time feeding according to La Leche League International (LLLI). This can keep them from drinking enough milk because they aren't able to handle the strong flow. Breastfeeding Basics added that a mother's forceful letdown reflex may cause the baby to choke, gag or sputter when a jet of milk sprays too quickly into their mouth.
6. Your Baby Has Green, Watery Or Foamy Stools
This can be a sign of foremilk-hindmilk imbalance also caused by oversupply. According to Breastmilk.com, foremilk-hindmilk imbalance can cause the baby to miss out on the hindmilk. The higher fat content in the hindmilk helps stimulate your baby’s growth. Too much foremilk can cause an imbalance of lactose and lactase (the enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose.) Your baby can ingest too much lactose and not have sufficient lactase to digest it. LLLI warned that a baby that ingests too much of this milk sugar can cause stomach discomfort with green watery or foamy stools.