It can be tricky to figure out how much formula to give your baby. Is he getting too much or too little? How much is enough? The answers depend mostly on how much your baby weighs and how he’s growing.
How much formula to feed your baby: Where to start
In general, babies eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. But formula-fed babies tend to be heavier than breastfed babies, appetites vary among babies, and each baby’s nutritional needs change from day to day and month to month.
Our guidelines are for babies who are exclusively formula fed for the first four to six months, and then fed a combination of formula and solids up to age 1.
Don’t give your baby more than 32 ounces of formula in a day, and once he starts eating solids, you’ll probably need to cut back on the amount of formula you feed him. Your baby’s doctor can tell you where your baby falls on the growth charts and help make sure he’s growing steadily and getting a healthy amount of formula.
Note: If your baby is getting a combination of breast milk and formula, talk to his doctor for more detailed advice.
How much formula by baby’s weight
In the first four to six months when your baby isn’t eating any solids, here’s a simple rule of thumb: Offer 2.5 ounces of formula per pound of body weight each day.
For example, if your baby weighs 6 pounds, you’ll give her about 15 ounces of formula in a 24-hour period. If she weighs 10 pounds, you’ll give her about 25 ounces in a 24-hour period.
These numbers are not rigid rules. They give you an overall average for what your baby is likely to require. His daily feedings will vary according to his individual needs – in other words, he may want a bit more on some days and a bit less on others.
How much formula by signs of hunger
Learning to read your baby’s hunger cues will help you know when and how much formula to feed your baby.
Your new baby: If your newborn is hungry, she’ll eventually cry. But crying is a late sign of hunger. Earlier signs to watch for include smacking her lips or sucking, rooting (turning her head toward your hand when you stroke her cheek), and putting her hands to her mouth.
Changing appetites: Your baby may be hungrier than usual during growth spurts. These typically occur ten to 14 days after birth and at age 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months. And your baby may be less hungry than usual if she’s not feeling well.
Wanting more: You’ll know that your baby wants more when she finishes the feeding quickly and looks around for more. If she seems hungry after her first bottle, try preparing just an ounce or two more at a time. If you make a larger amount, she may not finish it and you’ll have to throw it out.
Getting too much in a feeding: Vomiting after a feeding may be a sign that your baby had too much. (Spitting up is normal, vomiting isn’t. Find out how to tell the difference.) Tummy pain after a feeding can also be a sign of overfeeding. If your baby draws up his legs or his tummy seems tense, he may be in pain.
It’s not always hunger: Resist the urge to respond to your baby’s every whimper with a bottle. Consider the possibility – especially if you’ve recently fed her – that she’s crying because her diaper is wet, she’s cold or hot, she needs to be burped, or she simply wants to be close to you.