Is my baby getting enough to eat? Is my baby sick? These are concerns that can keep parents’ minds spinning. It can be scary to think that your baby might not be getting what they need to thrive.
Looking to their wet diapers may actually give you some important intel in this area!
Because liquid coming out usually correlates to liquid going in, many breastfeeding parents take comfort in knowing that their baby is producing sufficient wet diapers (and putting on a healthy amount of weight).
The color, texture, and smell of diapers can also give indicators to how your baby’s internal systems are doing.
In short, here’s the breakdown:
- On the first day after birth, expect only 1–2 wet diapers.
- On days 2–3 of your baby’s life, expect 2–4 wet diapers.
- By day 4, your baby should have 4–6 wet diapers per day.
- On day 5 and onward, your baby should have 6 or more wet diapers per day.
Things may start off slowly with only two wet diapers on day 2, and three wet diapers on day 3. But by the time day 5 rolls around you should see six or more wet diapers in a 24-hour period.
While not all of these diapers will be soaked, it’s important to make sure to change newborn diapers frequently to prevent diaper rash.
As your baby ages and their bladder is able to hold more, you may notice that they begin to hold their pee for longer, and soak the diaper more thoroughly. You’ll likely go through closer to 6 to 8 diapers a day instead of 8 to 10 when that happens.
In addition to wet diapers, you should also see at least 3 to 4 stools a day by the time your baby is 4 days old. The color of their stool should be changing as well.
While babies are born with black meconium poops, by day 4 or 5, the color should be yellow with a seedy, soft texture. All of this indicates that your baby is getting enough to eat!
A note about poop
For breastfed babies older than 6 weeks old, it’s totally normal if there are 3–4 days between bowel movements. In fact, according to La Leche League International, some babies older than 6 weeks will go a week between poops.
As colostrum (a natural laxative) leaves the milk, babies will poop less frequently than they did in the early days. As long as your baby is still gaining 1–2 pounds of weight per month, there is no cause for concern.
After the first week, your baby is well hydrated if they have at least 6 wet diapers per day, with no more than 8 hours between wet diapers. If either of those conditions is not met, your baby may be dehydrated.
In addition to a lack of wet diapers, you can look for some of the following signs of dehydration to know if something may be wrong with your baby:
- dry or cracked lips
- lethargic behavior or excessive sleepiness
- extreme fussiness
- fast breathing or heart rate
- no tears when crying
- sunken soft spot (fontanel) and eyes
- skin that is cold and dry or not as elastic
Slow and steady liquid consumption goes a long way to preventing dehydration.
If you’re breastfeeding your baby, you’ll want to offer them your breast frequently when you are in a warm environment or you know that they’re ill. If your child is drinking out of cup or bottle, you’ll want to be sure that this is accessible to them more frequently throughout the day.
Feeding sessions may be shorter than usual if your child doesn’t feel well, so increasing the frequency can help ensure that your little one has sufficient fluids in their body.
You’ll also want to think about what liquids you’re putting in your child’s body when they’re sick.
For older babies and toddlers, use of an oral solution like Pedialyte can help them to stay hydrated with lots of electrolytes. You can check with your doctor about whether they recommend the use of a rehydrating solution and how frequently.
In addition to keeping your baby fed, you’ll want to make sure that they are appropriately dressed. This will help them to avoid losing liquids through excessive sweating or shivering. And if you are traveling to higher altitudes, make sure to encourage your baby to drink as often as possible.
You should definitely alert your child’s pediatrician if:
- Your child does not seem to be rehydrating or appears to be becoming more dehydrated.
- There is blood in the stool or urine.
- Your child refuses to drink or take a doctor-approved rehydrating solution.
- Vomiting or diarrhea is so severe that your little one can’t consume enough liquids to keep up.
- Diarrhea is lasting more than a few days.
- Your child has an extremely high fever, above 104°F (40°C).
For parents of breastfed babies, it can feel like a guessing game how much milk your baby is getting. Because it’s harder to quantify by amount for breastfed babies, medical professionals typically focus on the number of times a baby should breastfeed in a 24-hour period.
From the time a baby is born until they are back at birth weight (approximately 10 to 14 days after birth), a breastfed baby should be fed every 2 to 3 hours. After that, a baby should be fed approximately 8 to 10 times a day.
For formula-fed babies, it’s possible to have a little more specificity about ounces. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a newborn will drink around 2 to 3 ounces (60 to 90 milliliters) of formula every 3 to 4 hours after the first few days.
By the time a baby is a month old, they typically eat around 4 ounces every 4 hours. As their stomachs continue to grow, by 6 months they’ll consume 4 to 5 bottles of around 6 to 8 ounces. This amount may decrease over the following months as more solid foods are added into their diet.
If you’re struggling with a baby who doesn’t want to eat, you may need to find a quiet space without distractions. You can also try a different breastfeeding position or bottle/nipple size.
Wet diapers are one of the best indicators that your baby is well fed and hydrated. By keeping a close eye on the number of wet diapers your baby produces each day, you’ll be able to best respond to their needs.
As always, if you are concerned, talk to your pediatrician. But in the meantime, enjoy those happy, milk-drunk smiles when your little one is passed out in your arms after feeding.