If you’ve just started feeding your baby formula, you’re probably wondering how much and how often to feed. How much formula you should feed a baby depends in large part on their age. Every baby is different, but there are some helpful guidelines you can follow.
Keep reading to learn more about formula feeding guidelines and how to tell if your baby is eating the right amount.
General Formula Feeding Guidelines
Infant formula provides the nutrients your baby needs throughout their first year. But it’s essential to prepare it correctly. Follow the preparation instructions carefully when making powdered or concentrated formulas.
Adding too much water can cause you to underfeed your baby. And too little water can cause electrolyte imbalances and dehydration. Use the scoop that comes with the can, and use a measuring cup to measure liquid formula and water.
If your tap water contains fluoride, consider using purified, distilled, or de-ionized bottled water when preparing the formula. That’s because your baby might develop dental fluorosis (faint white marks on their teeth) from too much fluoride.
If you’re formula feeding a newborn, you’ll notice they’ll get full quickly. Newborns have tiny stomachs and can only drink one to two ounces of formula at a time. However, they need to feed every two to three hours, which means eight to 12 feedings in 24 hours.
As your baby grows, their stomach grows too, so by the time they’re two months old, they’ll drink larger amounts of formula. Eventually, they’ll be able to drink about eight ounces per feeding. They’ll also stretch the time between feedings to about every four to five hours during the day, with a longer break overnight.
If your baby sleeps a lot, especially within the first few weeks, you may need to wake them to feed them.
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Feeding Your Baby: How Often and How Much (by Age)
Babies average about 32 ounces of formula in total daily, but the amount they can drink at each feeding varies by age. If you’re preparing formula and wondering how much formula for a one-month-old or an older infant, these guidelines can help.
- Newborns: one to two ounces of formula every two to three hours.
- By the end of the first month: three to four ounces every three to four hours.
- At two months: four to five ounces every three to four hours.
- At four months: four to six ounces every three to four hours.
- Six months and older: up to 8 ounces every four to five hours.
Keep in mind that every baby is different, and just like adults, some days, they may have a bigger appetite than others. It’s OK to feed your baby a little more if they still seem hungry. And don’t worry if other days, they eat a little less unless you notice signs they’re sick, like feeling feverish.
Most babies increase the amount they drink at each feeding by about one ounce per month until they’re drinking around eight ounces. By six months, most babies begin eating solid foods, so their formula needs won’t increase throughout the rest of their first year.
Generally, formula feedings shouldn’t exceed 32 ounces daily, but if you’re worried your baby needs more, talk to your doctor.
How to Know if Your Baby Is Hungry
Babies, especially newborns, rarely eat on a set schedule, so it’s up to you to look for signs they’re hungry. Crying is one sign that a baby is hungry, but it isn’t the only sign of mealtime. Usually, before they cry, your baby will show you they’re hungry by:
- Moving their head from side to side.
- Opening their mouth and sometimes sticking out their tongue.
- Putting their hands, fingers, or fist in their mouth.
- Showing the “rooting reflex” — moving their mouth toward you when you stroke their cheek.
You can feed your newborn on demand — whenever they cry or show any hunger cues. They will settle into a more predictable eating schedule as they get older.
How to Tell If Your Baby Is Eating Enough
Babies are very good at self-regulating the amount of formula they drink. When they’ve had enough and are feeling full, your baby will show you by:
- Stopping and starting frequently.
- Slowing down or falling asleep.
- Spitting out the bottle’s nipple.
- Pushing the bottle away.
- Fidgeting or getting distracted.
- Closing their mouth or turning their head away from the bottle.
When your baby gets enough to eat at each feeding, they’ll be happy and relaxed — or fall asleep after eating. They shouldn’t give you any hunger cues for at least one to three hours unless they’re a newborn.
You can also tell that they’re eating enough by their diapers. Newborns should have two to three wet diapers daily in their first few days. After they’re five days old, they should have at least five to six wet diapers each day.
Average growth and development are good signs your baby is eating well. When you bring your baby for their checkup, their doctor will check their weight and plot it on a growth chart. They’ll also look for various signs that they’re developing normally.
Can You Feed Too Much Formula?
Sometimes babies eat more than usual because they’re going through a growth spurt. That might last for a day or two in newborns or a few days in older infants. It’s OK to feed them the extra formula until they seem satisfied.
But some babies really love their bottles and are slow to show you they’re full. And some parents or caregivers hate to waste the last little bit of formula in the bottle. In either case, your baby can overeat.
If they do overeat, your baby might:
- Act like they have gas or stomach pains.
- Spit up or vomit.
- Gain too much weight for their age.
If your baby consistently eats more than average, try feeding them smaller amounts at each feeding. Be careful to watch for signs that they’re getting full, and don’t encourage them to continue eating. You can also offer a pacifier to soothe them instead of a bottle of formula.
It’s normal for parents or caregivers to worry about how much to feed a baby. Chances are, you’re right on track as long as you follow your baby’s cues. But if you have any questions or concerns, your health care team is just a phone call away.
Connect with UPMC
From nutrition to illnesses, from athletics to school, children will face many challenges growing up. Parents often will make important health care decisions for them. We hope to help guide both of you in that journey. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is a national leader in pediatric care, ranking consistently on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll. We provide expert treatment for pediatric diseases, along well-child visits, urgent care, and more. With locations across Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia, you can find world-class care close to home. We also work closely with UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, a national leader in care for newborns and their mothers. Our goal is to provide the best care for your children, from birth to adulthood and beyond. Visit our website to find a doctor near you.