Editor’s note: This post is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a medical professional or physician before treatment of any kind.
One of the handy-dandy things about breastfeeding is that babies on the boob tend to self-regulate; they, unlike parents on the buffet line, know when to stop. But if you’re formula-feeding, or pumping, how do you know how much of that bottle – or how many bottles – baby should be drinking?
The answer here, too, is: by and large, baby knows best. He or she will continue slurping away when hungry and will stop – clamping the mouth shut, turning the head away, falling asleep – when full. So if there’s anything to watch for, it’s overfeeding – a particular pitfall for parents or caregivers offering bottles. “It’s tempting to say, ‘Aw, let’s finish up; we don’t want to waste!'” says Sarah Krieger, Sarah Krieger, MPH, RD, LD/N, a dietician at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL, and a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
A better plan: Follow the baby’s cues. “Err on the side of offering less; you can always make more if the baby wants it,” she says. (Tip: Mix up a day’s worth of formula in the morning and offer the baby an ounce or two at a time.) That way, baby doesn’t overeat – which can cause throwing up, gas, stomach pains, and is connected to later obesity. The idea is to help baby learn to understand his or her hunger cues, and tend towards eating smaller, more frequent meals.
And remember, all babies are different. Some are dainty nibblers; some are hungry-hungry-hippos; they may go through growth spurts and different eating phases, too.
All of that said, it is helpful to know – roughly – what a healthy intake looks like.
0 to 3 weeks (7 lbs*)
1/2-1 oz.; increasing to 3 oz., every 2-3 hours; about 8 -10 times a day (12-24 oz.)
* To estimate by weight: An average baby should consume 2-3 ounces of formula per day for every pound of his or her body weight, up to a maximum of 32 ounces. So a newborn who weighs 7 lbs will require between 14-21 ounces per day, while a four-month-old who weighs 14 lbs will require between 28-32 ounces.
3 weeks to 3 months
3-4 oz., every 2-4 hours; about 6-8 times a day (24-32 oz.)
3 to 6 months (14 lbs)
4-6 oz., every 3-4 hours; about 6 times a day (24-32 oz.)
Now that they’re sleeping longer at night, they may eat larger meals at bedtime and in the morning.
6 to 9 months
5-6 oz., about every 3-4 hours; about 5 times a day (24-32 oz.)
32 oz. a day is the “gold standard” for when they’re able to start solids, says Krieger. But for the first year, nutritionally speaking, breast milk/formula remain priorities, even when baby starts branching out. “Before 1 year, the solids mainly serve to teach babies how to eat,” she says.
9 to 12 months
5-7 oz., about every 4 hours; about 5 times a day (24-32 oz.)
Baby may drink a bit less as more solids — especially those with high water content — are added.
Approx 4 oz. cow’s/soy milk (or yogurt), up to 4 times a day
If you’re formula-feeding, transition to whole dairy. If you’re nursing, carry on as usual. If your supply is strong you don’t need additional milk, but you can supplement with it if you want. Tip: with the new milk, skip the bottle and go straight to the sippy.