Infant Feeding Amounts

Some first time parents worry about appropriate infant feeding amounts. With a second baby – parents tend to be more relaxed, as they know that newborn babies often vary from feed to feed. In the early days and weeks the crucial factor is how many feeds the baby is having over a 24hour period. There are various factors that need to be taken into account depending on whether you are breast-feeding or formula-feeding. (Please also check with your Health Care Professional as there may be other factors that are important regarding your baby – that I cannot know about your individual baby)


When it comes to appropriate infant feeding amounts for breast-feeding babies – it is a little more difficult to assess. Initially when a baby is born, they may only receive a small amount of colostrum (the thick yellow concentrated milk). Often newborn babies are very sleepy so this concentrated milk keeps them going for a good few hours at a time, even though they will not have had a large quantity of milk to drink. There were periods when babies were “test weighed” so that one could be sure how much milk exactly the baby was getting. Test weighing was found to be of no value, because of the unpredictability of each feed.

The important factors to determine whether your baby is getting enough milk are:

* If your baby is gaining significant weight over a period of a week
* Is “settled” between most feeds
* Is having 6 – 8 wet diapers/nappies in 24 hour period

Initially, when your baby is establishing breast-feeding, your baby may feed up to 10 times a day (over a 24 hour period) – this may continue for the first few days or even weeks. As you establish your milk supply, and your baby becomes more proficient at feeding, the number of feeds per day will usually drop. With breast-feeding it is better to let your baby “lead” and follow their cues for when they want to feed. A baby is expected to gain 15gm/Kg per day.

However, with a newborn baby, who may be sleepy in the early days, possibly because of medications given to the mother in labour, it is important that the baby does not go for too long a period without a feed. A newborn baby’s body is still adjusting to doing all the work that was done by the mother, when the baby was still in the womb, so it is important that the baby is given feeds regularly throughout the day and night.

Your newborn baby should be having 6 – 8 good feeds in 24 hours, and your baby should not go for a period of more than 5 hours without a feed. You will need to wake your baby to feed, if your baby has gone for more than 5 hours without a feed.
With a bigger newborn baby (4KG+ that is, a baby weighing 9lbs-10lbs) they may behave like an older baby, and after the first few weeks, you may find that they sleep for a 6 hour period (preferably during the night). If they have long sleeps in the day, they will tend to feed more often at night. If this does not suit your sleeping pattern, then wake them if they are having a long day-time nap. Once they have had a diaper change, and a bit of social interaction, they usually remember their tummies and decide they need a feed!!

The smaller the baby – the more often they need to feed. Little pre-term babies, start with very frequent feeds (1-2 hourly) and small amounts – at this stage they would only be offered an occasional breast-feed – if at all – depending on their health. (Premmie or preterm babies need special care and would be under the care of a Neonatal Specialist)

With breast-feeding, let the baby suckle on one breast until the breast is empty – that way the baby gets the very nourishing “hind milk” and will feel more satisfied. Then offer the second breast – and your baby will let you know if he/she is still hungry.

Remember, your infant’s feeding amounts will change as the weeks go by

* They will feed more frequently during growth spurts ( 2-3 weeks of age; at about 6 weeks of age and again at 3 months of age – this is just a rough guide)
* You may feel that your breasts are not filling like they used to – this is usually just you and your baby adjusting to a supply and demand situation as you both become proficient at breast-feeding
* You need to have your baby weighed and checked by your health care professional each week for the first few months, so that you and your infant’s progress can be monitored. If your baby is not gaining adequate weight, offer the breast more frequently, and ensure that you are caring for yourself properly, with regard to rest, fluid intake and adequate nutrition.
* The number of baby’s bowel actions can change – without this indicating that your infant is or is not getting the appropriate feeding amount.

As your baby grows, you will find that they do not feed as frequently – though a minimum of 5 – 6 feeds a day is average until they are about 5 – 6 months old) – by which stage you would be introducing solid feeds.

Remember, when trying to work out infant feeding amounts, the important thing is that your baby is thriving – i.e. gaining significant weight over the period of a week. Your Health Care Professional will monitor and chart your baby’s weight so that a close eye is kept on your baby, so that if anything out of the ordinary happens, you can be referred for the appropriate help.

Formula Feeding:

(Please check with your Health Care Professional, as there may be other factors involved when estimating your infants feeding amounts)
With formula feeding – infant feeding amounts are much easier to work out – there is no guess work involved!!
Babies born at “term” i.e. who are born after 37 weeks gestation – their infant feeding amount is worked out on their weight.
The formula we Professionals use is 150mls/per KG for a 24 hour period of time. Obviously the baby won’t take it all at once, so this is divided into smaller amounts to be offered at each feeding time. Newborn babies who are feeding on a formula, will feed anywhere from every 3 to 4 hours, which amounts to 6 to 8 feeds over the 24 hour period.
It is better if the baby feeds when they are hungry – rather that you trying to make them drink when it suits you. Over time they will establish their own pattern, and you will be able to plan around this. Your baby will feel more secure, and is likely to cry less if you respond to the cues your baby gives you. Although you may feel unsure initially, as you spend more time with your baby – you will get better at understanding why they are crying, and what they are trying to tell you.

A hungry baby is usually one who is turning their head from side to side, with their mouth open (looking for the breast), and sucking a fist, or anything else that their mouth comes in contact with.

You will know your baby is getting enough milk:

* If they are gaining significant weight over a period of a week
* Are “settled” between most feeds (that means sleeps between most feeds)
* They have 6 to 8 good wet nappies over a 24 hour period.

You need to have your baby checked and weighed by your Health Care Professional every week, for the first few months of their lives – this way we can keep a check on their growth and progress, and make the appropriate referrals if something is a little unusual.

When Formula Feeding your baby

* Check with your Health Care Professional as to which type of formula to use
* Always follow the Manufactures directions exactly as stated on the can.
* Never change the “scoop” for a different sized one
* Use cooled boiled water for mixing the formula
* Always use bottles/nipples/teats that have been sterilized – instructions are on the can
* You need to discard formula that has been made up and standing at room temperature for more than 3 hours – in case it has become contaminated
* If your baby drinks all the amount you offer them, next time mix up a larger amount (following the manufactures directions exactly as to how many scoops to how much water – making it differently can mean your baby will not get the correct amount of nutrition, or the food will be too concentrated)
* It is OK if the temperature of the milk is at room temperature, or some babies like a feed that is slightly warm – not hot.
* If you are expecting your baby to wake to feed soon, you can prepare a bottle, but keep it in the refrigerator once it is mixed. You can quickly warm it by placing it into a jug/pitcher of hot water from the tap.
* In the first days of a newborn’s life, they must not go for too long a period without a feed – wake them after a 5 hour period – ensure they get at least 6 good feeds in 24 hours
* When feeding your baby, relax in a comfortable chair, and cuddle your baby as you feed, and your baby will thrive

The fact that you are looking for more information on infant feeding amounts, shows that you are wanting to do the best for your baby – apart from the feed your baby needs, a loving parent is the other essential ingredient to a happy healthy baby!