How Much Should Babies Eat?
Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of childcare as well as one of the biggest stressors for new parents. How much should a baby eat, and how do you know when to start feeding them more?
You can frantically come up with a detailed feeding schedule that’s calculated down to the last ounce, but this can be exhausting, especially when your little one doesn’t even eat as much as you think they should.
It’s hard to know exactly how much a baby should eat because every child is different, but there are some general newborn and infant nutrition guidelines you can follow during the first year of life to make sure your baby grows up big and strong.
Formula vs. Breastfeeding
Every mom has a right to choose how she wants to feed her baby. While breast milk has great benefits for babies, formula-fed babies can grow up as just as smart and healthy.
Your personal decision to feed your baby breast milk or formula will weigh on a lot of factors, and you may want to consider the different feeding requirements for each. How much a baby should eat will depend on the source of nutrients and baby’s individual needs. Every child is different, so exploring all of your options is the best way to make the right choice for your infant.
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How Much a Baby Should Drink Formula
When you’re asking, “How much should a baby eat?” the question will rely on their age and what they’re consuming. Formula-fed babies typically consume more milk than breastfed babies. One of the reasons babies drink more formula is due to the flow of a bottle.
Breastmilk does not have the same continuous stream of a bottle’s nipple. Newborns have a natural sucking reflex that will cause them to consume more milk from a bottle than breast. This can cause some parents to overfeed their baby because they mistakenly think he or she is still hungry because they keep suckling.
On average, a newborn should have 2 to 4 ounces of formula every two to three hours. From age 1 to 4 months, babies should take about 4 to 6 ounces every four hours or so. It’s important not to force a baby to finish a bottle.
You should ask your pediatrician how much a baby should eat at your infant’s stage, and make sure that you are in-tune with their wants. Sometimes, a baby simply won’t be as hungry, and overfeeding can cause stomach pain, diarrhea and discomfort.
How Much a Baby Should Eat When Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding amounts are counted less in ounces and more in frequencies. Most babies will nurse every two or three hours during the first month of life. You will also have to wake up and nurse as babies do not begin sleeping throughout the night until they’re 2 to 4 months old.
Your baby may prefer to nurse more in several short bursts during a certain period of time. This is known as “cluster feeding.” Some babies are okay with nursing every few hours, but your newborn may wait and only prefer to nurse in smaller portions around dinnertime.
Babies will outgrow the cluster-feeding stage, so hang in there. You can always try to supplement with a bottle if you find your baby’s nursing schedule to be too demanding.
How Much a Baby Should Eat During a Growth Spurt
Your baby may seem to grow up in the blink of an eye. This isn’t entirely inaccurate. During the first year of life, babies go through several growth spurts that will increase their weight and height drastically in a short period.
Every baby is different, so your baby may experience growth spurts a little sooner or later than you expect. That being said, you can expect most babies go through a growth spurt during the following time periods:
- 7-10 days old
- 2-3 weeks old
- 4-6 weeks old
- 3-months old
- 4-months old
- 6-months old
- 9-months old
During a growth spurt, your baby’s milk intake will increase. They may be fussier and more demanding with their meals. Some babies may even want to nurse as much as every hour. Let your baby guide you. You might up their milk intake by an ounce or two every feeding, or even wind up giving them another bottle entirely.
If you’re breastfeeding, your milk production will naturally increase due to the more frequent nursing. If your flow can’t keep up, it’s okay to use some supplemental formula or a bottle with pumped breast milk.
Make sure to take care of yourself when your baby is going through a growth spurt. As a breastfeeding mother, you may feel hungrier, thirstier or more tired than usual. Fix yourself a snack, stay hydrated and rest when you can, especially during your baby’s naps.
How Much a Baby Should Eat When Starting Solids
By the time your baby is around 6-months-old, they will be ready to start trying solids. Introducing your baby to solids can be tricky if you aren’t sure how to integrate new food into their regular feeding schedule.
It’s important to make sure that you are consistent with your feedings during the weaning phase so your baby isn’t left hungry or frustrated. Around the half-year mark, babies need more nutrients than breast milk and formula provided.
There are two ways you can approach weaning: traditional and baby-led. You’ll soon realize that how much a baby should eat will be greatly influenced by how they’re fed.
With this method, you put your baby in a high chair and hand-feed them their first solids. This approach makes it easier to gauge how much your baby has eaten and makes less mess.
This is a fun way for babies to get comfortable with solids and experience all the textures and colors first-hand. Babies are given a small amount of food and allowed to do what they want with it. This will mostly mean smearing it all over their hands and high chair, but they will start to eat as well, especially with a little guidance.
How Much a Baby Should Eat Solids
Your baby’s main source of nutrition should still be breast milk or formula throughout their first year. They will begin to develop a greater taste for solids as they grow, but they should still receive 24 to 32 ounces of milk per day.
Tips for Feeding Your Baby
How much should a baby eat is only half of the equation; knowing how much to give your child also requires a good strategy. Some babies are better feeders than others; they latch on and have no problem finishing their milk or baby food in one sitting. Others may be fussy and tend to show signs of pickiness early on.
You should stick to a schedule, but don’t force your child to eat when they aren’t hungry. Some days, your baby simply may not want to eat as much. Give or take a few ounces, it’s okay for their appetite to fluctuate. The only time you should be concerned is if they lose their appetite, can’t keep food down or they only drink a little bit each day.
You should stop to burp your baby after every few ounces. This can reduce regurgitation and help them digest their food more easily. Position your baby against your chest or shoulder and gently pat their back.
Older babies might resist this position, so let them sit on your lap while you pat them.
Go With the Flow
Babies will learn to adjust their intake as they get older. Your baby may push the bottle away in the middle of a feeding or detach from your breast. This is normal, and you can reintroduce it to them in a few minutes. Don’t panic if they are less inclined to feed some days more than others. You’ll naturally pick up on their needs and cues as you bond.
How much a baby should eat depends on both their personal preferences and dietary needs; some children may simply eat less than others but still feel full and get all the nutrition they require. Your pediatrician will let you know if your baby is meeting their milestones during your check-ups, and it’s okay to schedule an appointment to ask questions and get some reassurance if you’re worried your baby doesn’t eat enough.
How Much a Baby Should Eat When Teething
Babies need food even when they resist it, which they’re likely to as their first teeth start to come in around 4 to 6 months old. Some babies even start to experience teething as early as 2 months old.
Figuring out how much a baby should eat when they don’t show interest in milk or food is tough. In general, you should try to soothe their gums first and feed them after. Babies won’t eat when they’re in pain, and teething can be very uncomfortable.
Your baby may drool more than usual, bite, develop a rash around their mouth and seem fussier than usual as they start to teethe. Less appetite is normal, and it should only last for a few days.
Finding Your Balance
Learning how much a baby should eat will be different for every parent. As your baby grows and the two of you get closer, you’ll learn their unique needs and be able to adjust accordingly. Don’t worry if things feel difficult some days. That’s all part of the parenting process.
At the end of the day, focus on your child and how they communicate. Even babies have their own way of letting us know what they want and need.