Breastfeeding essentials

Is your baby getting enough breast milk?

For new mums, breastfeeding is another new skill you’ll need to learn when your precious little one arrives. It is very common for mums to feel unsure about the various elements of breastfeeding such as timing, frequency, techniques and milk production. As with any new activity it can take some time to feel comfortable with breastfeeding. 

At Mater Mothers’ we deliver more than 10 000 babies each year and work closely with our new mums to help them become confident in caring for their baby. We share a range of tried and tested tips to help you learn about how your baby’s feeding behaviour, urine output and bowel movements to help you to know that your baby is getting enough breast milk.

While it is impossible to measure how much breast milk a baby drinks, it is possible to assess if your baby is feeding effectively. Breastfeeding should be comfortable for you and your baby. Your baby should have a deep, slow rhythmic sucking pattern; the slower the suck, the more milk that is drawn into your baby’s mouth. Your baby will appear more relaxed, and your breasts become softer, as the feed progresses.

Breastfeeding works on supply and demand. Every time your baby feeds, your body starts to make the next feed. The more your baby feeds, the more milk you make. You do not have to wait a specific amount of time for your breasts to fill up before feeding your baby again. If you have any concerns about your milk supply, please speak to your midwife, GP or a lactation consultant. 

If you require further assistance and support please get in touch with Mater mothers’ Parenting Support Centre on 07 3163 2999 to make an appointment with a lactation consultant.

Feeding cues—know when your baby is ready 

There are so many new things to learn as a new parent; like bathing, changing nappies, feeding, sleeping, clothing (the list goes on). One of the most common fears of new mums is not knowing when to breastfeed. Fear not, we have all the information you need to ensure you know when bub’s tummy is grumbling.

Feeding cues

As a mum, you and your baby share a special bond. Your baby is born with incredible instincts and is able to communicate with you within the first hour of birth. Your baby has a unique way of communicating to you that they are hungry. Look for, and respond to early feeding cues that your baby displays including:

  • rapid eye movement
  • clicking or tongue sucking
  • squeaking noises or light fussing
  • opening their mouth and searching to suck on contact (also known as rooting)
  • hand movements to their mouth or sucking on their hands
  • increased alertness, awakening or changes in facial expression
  • movement of arms or legs
  • tossing, turning or wriggling.


Crying is a late sign of hunger so avoid waiting for this sign as your baby will be more difficult to latch to your breast. Occasionally, babies can move rapidly through the feeding cues to crying, or the situation may not allow you to immediately respond to their early cues. However, placing your baby skin-to-skin against your chest allows them to calm and they may then exhibit those early feeding cues again. A calm baby is easier to latch.

We all know how difficult it is to please a baby once they have reached the hysterical crying stage. When your baby has reached this point, it is almost impossible to attach your baby to your breast. Babies lift their tongue to the roof of their mouth in order to protect their airway when crying; therefore, it is impossible for your baby to receive the nipple in their mouth.

If your baby is crying and you do not respond to early feeding clues, your baby will become disorganised and experience more difficulty with latching. In this situation, they may suckle briefly before falling asleep which will start a cycle of incomplete poor feeding and short sleeping.

Tips to avoid crying:

  • Avoid changing your baby’s nappy before the feed if this upsets your baby. Instead, commence the feed and change your baby mid-feed once they become sleepy.

  • Place your baby skin-to-skin against your chest to allow their nervous system to calm. This will allow your baby to exhibit early feeding cues and improve their ability to attach.

Don’t let your baby cry it out

One of your baby’s methods of communication is crying. This is how they talk to you. Beware of old fashioned people and books who tell you that your baby should be on a schedule and cry it out until feed time or learn to settle on their own. This theory is not supported by evidence.

Letting a baby cry it out may be physiologically and psychologically harmful to a baby. Studies that have examined child attachment and development have found that babies who are responded to appropriately to when they display feeding cues are calmer, more attached and more independent children later in life.

Midwives and lactation consultants at Mater do not support popular parenting books which encourage routines and schedules. We actively discourage their use because of their detrimental impact on breastfeeding.

Introducing solids—when, what and how?

Australian guidelines recommend the introduction of solids should be considered when your baby is between four to six months of age. Solids should not be offered before four months as your baby’s digestive system and head control are less likely to be mature enough to cope with this new experience. Find out more about the best ways to introduce solid foods to your baby from our experts at Mater’s Health and Wellness Centre.

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For urgent assessment at any stage of your pregnancy, please present to your nearest emergency centre or Mater Mothers’ 24/7 Pregnancy Assessment Centre in South Brisbane.

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