No matter if you decided to breastfeed or formula feed your baby, all parents have the same question – How much should my baby eat? As your baby ages, the amount that he should eat changes and increases. Then, you toss in solid foods and are thrown for a loop. You want to make sure your baby is eating the right amount of food, so what are those magical numbers?
No single feeding schedule is perfect for every baby. Some babies prioritize sleeping over eating or vice versa. Watching for your baby’s hunger cues are how you know that it’s time to feed your baby again.
Signs that a baby is hungry are:
Crying is considered a late sign of hunger. If your baby is crying because he is hungry, he’s starving. It’s best to feed your baby before he gets so hungry that he’s upset. It makes it harder for babies to calm down to eat or to latch onto the breast.
Common Ages for Growth Spurts
Does your baby suddenly seem hungrier than he did yesterday? He might want to nurse every hour or scream for an extra ounce or two ounces of formula at each bottle. It sounds like your baby might be in the middle of a growth spurt!
A growth spurt is a period of rapid growth. It can happen at any time, but growth spurts do often occur in the early months. Doctors have pinpointed a few times when growth spurts are more likely to occur:
When your baby is in the middle of a growth spurt, expect him to seem exceptionally hungry. During these times, it’s essential that you follow his hunger cues and feed on demand. Increase breastfeeding sessions or the amount of formula given as needed by the baby.
0 to 4 Weeks Feeding Guidelines
Congratulations! Your newborn baby is here, and figuring out how much do newborns eat and how often will my newborn eat is tricky. Doctors recommend that parents feed their babies whenever they seem to be hungry, which is called on demand feeding.
Newborns who are formula fed will eat every two to three hours. Don’t feel limited by this though because newborns are growing. If your baby feels hungry, then feed your baby. Don’t stick a clock; his signs are more important than the times.
For the first few weeks, mix two to three-ounce bottles for your newborn. Over time, you will need to increase this as he starts to eat more.
Most newborns will breastfeed every 1.5 to 3 hours. Yes, that’s quite a range, but every two hours is the normal range for eating. Your baby will spend a lot of time at the breast, taking anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to drain your breasts. On average, your baby will breastfeed 8 to 12 times in 24 hours.
Figuring out how much should a newborn eat while breastfeeding can be tricky because you aren’t able to see what your baby is removing from your breasts. If you’re pumping, babies at this age will only drink 1-2 ounce bottles at a time every two hours.
Until your baby is back at birth weight, it’s best to ensure your child doesn’t sleep longer than three hours in between feedings. Yes, you need sleep, but gaining weight is a baby’s most important job at this point. Talk to your pediatrician to decide if waking up to feed is a good choice until your baby has met a specific weight goal.
Newborns frequently feed because their stomachs are quite small. A 24-hour-old baby has a stomach the size of a cherry. That’s very small, so it doesn’t require much milk to be full. Over the following month, his stomach will grow from the size of a cherry to being able to hold three to four ounces at a time. That’s considerable growth in a short period.
If your baby is breastfed, don’t forget that breast milk digests faster than formula. Combine a smaller stomach with fast digesting breast milk, and you have a recipe for frequent feedings.
4-8 Weeks Feeding Guidelines
By four weeks old, your baby is officially a month old. He is still tiny and needs to eat often. Don’t expect too much of a drastic change in feedings at a month old. You might see a pattern start to develop with better trackable feeding times, but the number of feedings won’t change too much.
Your baby will slowly be able to take more ounces in each bottle, which will extend the time between feedings. It’s imperative that you follow your baby’s lead. If he is still obviously hungry after his bottle, it might be time to increase his bottle by another ounce.
The general guideline is that your formula fed one month old will drink three to four-ounce bottles at each feeding. The frequency is usually every two to three hours, but he might be able to go four hours in between feedings if he takes four-ounce bottles.
A one-month-old baby still breastfeeds 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. That means he will probably breastfeed every 2 to 3 hours around the clock, even at night. You might notice a pattern start to develop. For example, he might wake up every day around 9 am and breastfeed then sleep until 11 am and breastfeed again. Having a schedule in mind makes life a bit easier.
9-12 Weeks Feeding Guidelines
Your baby is now two months old, and his feeding patterns are changing. He will slowly start to take more ounces at each feeding and lengthen the time between each one. Other babies are stubborn, especially breastfed babies, and want to keep nursing as often as before.
By now, your baby should be taking four to five-ounces at each feeding. His feedings may be spaced every three to four hours, but follow his signs and cues more than a schedule.
At two months old, your baby can typically breastfeed every three hours, but some babies like to stick to every two hours. Follow his cues because every baby is an individual. You might notice longer stretches at night, or your baby might be determined to nurse around the clock. Breastfed babies are harder to predict.
If you’re giving your breastfed baby a bottle, plan to provide an ounce per hour that you’ll be gone. So, if you’ll be gone for four hours, you need to have four ounces available for your baby.
When to Introduce Solid Foods to Your Baby?
Now that your baby is four months old, you might wonder when it’s time to introduce solid foods. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months of life.
By the time most babies are four to six months old, they can start to eat solid foods as a complement to breastfeeding or formula. It shouldn’t replace their milk consumption at this point. Instead of waiting for an arbitrary age, look for signs that your baby is ready to start solid foods.
A few signs that your baby is ready for solid foods include:
Once you can answer yes to these questions and your baby’s doctor agrees he is ready for solid foods, you can get started!
4-6 Months Feeding Guidelines
Babies between four and six months old are beginning to advance. They begin to sit up and grab for objects. His head and neck control have developed, and his tongue-thrust mechanism is starting to disappear.
At four months old, your baby should be taking four to six-ounce bottles, but it might be up to seven ounces. The frequency of his feedings will depend on his size, but you can expect him to want a bottle around every four hours.
By now, your baby should be nursing every 3 hours and might be giving you longer stretches at night without nursing. Expect to nurse your baby six to eight times in 24 hours, but some babies nurse a lot more. Remember some babies comfort nurse as well as fill their belly!
This age is when you first introduce solid foods, and it should be a complement to formula or breast milk. Aim to feed your baby one to two tablespoons of solid foods twice a day. It’s a snack and shouldn’t take the place of milk as the primary source of nutrients.
6-8 Months Feeding Guidelines
By now, you’ve introduced food to your baby, so you’re going to increase how many solid foods they’ll be eating gradually.
It’s hard to believe that your baby is getting so big now! An average six-month-old formula fed baby is drinking six to eight-ounce bottle every feeding. Each bottle should be given every four to five hours. Don’t forget his will also depend on the number of solid foods introduced at this point.
The standard for a six-month-old baby is 32 ounces of milk, so babies who are starting solids should be consuming around 32 ounces each day. How that is broken up doesn’t matter so much, as long as he is consuming around that amount.
Most breastfeed babies don’t go longer than every four hours between nursing sessions. So, expect your baby to nurse every three to four hours.
You can start introducing more solid foods at this age, but formula or breast milk is still most important. Babies six to eight months old can have two to three tablespoons of solid foods twice per day. You might want to try breakfast and dinner for your baby.
8-10 Months Feeding Guidelines
Around this age, your baby’s milk consumption will start to decrease as he adds in more solid foods and finger foods. Consuming the right amount of formula or breast milk is still paramount at this age, so don’t forget that milk!
Your baby will drink about 24 to 32 ounces of formula each day. That might be five to seven-ounce bottle every four hours around five times per day.
Continue to feed your baby breast milk when he desires. Most babies drink between 24 and 32 ounces of milk at this age, so expect to breastfeed six to ten times per day.
Now, you can introduce finger foods as your baby gets older and works on his pincher grasp. Babies can eat three to four tablespoons of food three times per day. It’s time for the three meals a day. He might even like a snack in between of some finger foods like dissolvable rice crackers.
10-12 Months Feeding Guidelines
You’re reaching the end of the formula days. Most parents start to transition their baby to cow’s milk by the time they hit a year old. Breastfed babies are encouraged to breastfeed until two years old, but their primary meals turn to more solid food rather than just milk. Breast milk is the complement rather than the full dinner.
At this age, you can give your baby three or four bottles containing six to eight ounces of formula. As he gets closer to a year old, you’ll bring that down to three bottles, and then you’ll transition to cow’s milk.
By now, you’re breastfeeding your baby four to eight times a day, with your baby consuming around four to five ounces at a time. If you plan to wean, you’ll want to decrease the feedings slowly. If you don’t, let your baby decide when he needs to nurse.
By now, your baby will eat three meals a day and possibly two snacks in between. He can have food with chunks in it and plenty of finger foods. Now is the time to let him explore with textures and flavors. Babies tend to eat around four to five tablespoons of solid foods at a setting, or he might be on only table foods by this point! All babies are unique.
When to Introduce Cow’s Milk to Your Baby?
When your baby is a year old, you can start adding cow’s milk to him. You can say goodbye to purchasing cans of formula.
Introducing cow’s milk to your baby needs to be done slowly. Don’t just instantly replace a bottle of formula with cow’s milk and expect him to react well. If anything, his belly will hurt, or he might have an allergic reaction.
Try the percentage route. The first week, give your baby 25% cow’s milk and 75% formula. Watch for any reactions or strange bowel movements that might indicate an allergy. The following week, try 50% cow’s milk and 50% formula. On the next week, you’ll use 75% cow’s milk and 25% formula. At least, you’ll be formula free!
How Do I Know My Baby is Getting Enough to Eat?
Parents often stress over knowing if their baby is getting enough to eat. Babies grow at different rates, so you can’t compare your baby with your friend’s child or even your previous children. You might wonder if your baby is getting enough nutrients to grow properly.
This worry is increased for breastfed babies who don’t take bottles because you can’t see how much your baby is intaking at each feeding. Therefore, how much should my baby eat became your most important question at this time. So, you need to rely on signs that breastfed baby isn’t eating enough, and these signs are:
These signs also work for formula fed babies as well. Your baby’s diapers are an indicator of whether your baby is getting enough to eat. A newborn baby should have at least six wet diapers and four dirty diapers after he is a week old.
The color of your baby’s poop also is an indicator of his eating habits. A healthy formula fed baby will have firmer, less seedy stools, while breastfed babies will have yellow, seedy poops by the time he is a week old and the meconium has transitioned out of his system.
Most importantly, sticking to your schedule well-child checkups can help ensure your baby is getting enough to eat. Your pediatrician will closely track his weight gain and let you know if you should be concerned about his gain.
How Do I Know If my Breastfed Baby is Overeating?
Babies are usually good at eating the right amount, but sometimes they can take in more than they need. You might wonder if your breastfed baby is overeating, but infants who are bottle feeding are more likely to be overfed. Drinking from a bottle takes less effort than breastfeeding, so they can quickly guzzle down a bottle and overeat before they feel full.
Overfed infants often have stomach pains, gas, spit up, or vomit. They also have an increased risk of obesity later in life. Always start by offering less. You can give more milk then if your baby seems still hungry. Try to give your baby time to eat with ample burping times throughout the bottle.
How Much Should My Combination Fed Baby Be Eating?
Combination feeding is often called mixed feeding. It means that your baby is given formula as well as breast milk, whether it’s directly from your breast or expressed milk. There are many ways to combination feed. A few options are:
No matter how your baby eats, the amounts should be the same. For example, a six-month-old should still drink 32 ounces whether its all formula, all breastmilk or half and half. The best route is to provide breast milk first and then base the amount of formula given on how hungry your baby is afterward.
The Final Thoughts
So how much should my baby eat is a very important problem for every mom. Feeding your baby is stressful, or so it feels. Remember, the most important thing is following your baby’s hunger signs. If he still seems hungry, then feed your baby more. Base your frequency and amounts on your child’s reactions and attitudes. If he’s hungry, feed him. It’s as simple as that!