A newborn baby grasps a person's finger tightly.
By logging breastfeeding behaviors, you’ll get a better sense of how much breast milk your little one is consuming. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

The moment you find out you’re having a baby, it opens a floodgate of questions.

Will it be a girl or a boy? Is there anything I should or shouldn’t eat? When should I start buying maternity clothes? What happens at labor and delivery?

At some point you’ll also need to think about breastfeeding or formula feeding.

We’ve looked in other stories at several great things about the benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby, such as the many health benefits and positive effects on baby’s brain health.

And even though we know breastfeeding leads to all these great things, some moms may stop breastfeeding early.

There are two primary reasons moms will stop breastfeeding: lack of milk production and presence of pain.

One study involving more than 1,300 moms found that about half the participating moms cited insufficient milk supply as a reason to stop breastfeeding.

The other reason? Pain when nursing or pain when the baby latched on.

Let’s take a look at these reasons.

Low milk production

I hear this from moms fairly frequently.

I think one thing at work here is the visual feedback from bottles. When we offer a baby a bottle, we can see how much formula is in the bottle—and we can physically see how much the baby ingested once they’re done.

With breastfeeding, you can’t necessarily see the amount of breastmilk consumed. It’s easy to then wonder, “Did I make enough milk?” or, “Is my baby getting enough?”

So how do you know? At any Spectrum Health hospital, you’ll receive a feeding log to help you keep track of how often your baby is nursing. You also log baby’s poops and pees.

This tells us a lot.

The log is for the first week of life, but there are many apps out there that you can continue to use beyond that.

When things are going well, your baby will breastfeed a minimum of eight to 12 times in a 24-hour period. That’s the minimum.

You can watch your baby’s sucking motions, paying careful attention to swallowing action and cheek movement.

Sometimes, you can actually hear your baby swallowing. That’s a good thing.

You’ll also notice a rhythm when your baby nurses. The suck-to-swallow ratio can change depending on what part of the feed they’re at. This also changes after the colostrum transitions to milk.

Some other things to keep in mind:

  • Typically by Day 5, baby should be having about five wet diapers and four to five poopy diapers. The color of the poopy diapers should transition from black (meconium) to greenish, then to yellow and seedy looking. By Day 5 we are looking for the yellow poops.
  • Watch to see if your baby is more content after feeding. At the beginning of a feeding, your baby may often want to place his hands in the way or in the mouth. As he fills his little tummy, he relaxes and his hands go into a more relaxed position.
  • Pay attention to baby’s weight. A baby will often lose weight after birth, usually up to 10% of the birth weight. By about Day 5, however, baby typically starts to gain some weight. We are looking for baby to be back to birth weight by about Day 10-14.

Painful latch

It’s important your baby learns to latch correctly in the beginning. Your baby has never nursed before—food in the womb came via the pipeline, as I like to tell new parents, and it came all the time.

They didn’t have to work for it.

Now, they have to learn to suck, swallow and breathe to get food.

We are looking for a deep latch at breastfeeding. This means your baby will have a lot of the dark part (areola) in her mouth, not just the nipple.

When baby latches on initially, it may be uncomfortable. But it shouldn’t be painful.

If it’s painful, baby is not latched correctly. Baby’s lips should look flanged outward.

How to get help

This is an area I am passionate about.

Having worked with breastfeeding moms for my entire OB career of floor nursing and education—plus nursing all six of my children—I became an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

People like me who work with breastfeeding moms want you to know one thing: There is help.

Give us a call. We always want to help.

If you encounter difficulty, don’t stop trying—your little one stands to reap so many benefits from breastmilk.