Are you concerned that your baby is getting too much or too little formula? How much is enough? Behavior, age, and weight – as well as a healthy growth curve – provide good guidelines.
How much formula to feed your baby: Where to start
In general, babies eat when they're hungry and stop when they're full, so it's important to pay attention to your baby's hunger cues and resist the temptation to encourage your baby to finish each bottle. The basic guidelines below describe how much a formula-fed baby will typically eat based on weight or age. A healthy growth curve will show that your little one's diet is on track.
A few notes:
- These guidelines are for babies who are exclusively formula-fed for the first 4 to 6 months, and then fed a combination of formula and solids up to age 1.
- If your baby is getting a combination of breast milk and formula, talk to his doctor for separate advice.
- 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. If you're ever worried that your baby is getting too little or too much formula, talk with his doctor.
How much formula by hunger cues
While the sections below give guidelines on how much formula to feed your baby based on weight and age, it's always important to also pay attention to behaviors called hunger cues.
Crying: Crying is a late sign of hunger. Earlier cues your infant is hungry include:
- Smacking his lips or sucking
- Rooting (turning his head toward your hand when you stroke his cheek)
- Putting his hands to his mouth
- Opening his mouth
Looking around: You'll know that your baby wants more when he finishes the feeding quickly and looks around for more. If he seems unsatisfied after his first bottle, try preparing just an ounce or two more at a time. If you make a larger amount, he may not finish it and you'll have to throw it out.
Growth spurts: Your baby may be hungrier than usual during growth spurts. These typically occur 10 to 14 days after birth and around 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months of age. Your baby may be less hungry than usual if he's not feeling well.
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 him – that he's crying because his diaper is wet, he's cold or hot, he needs to be burped, or he simply wants to be close to you. For more help, see 12 reasons babies cry and how to soothe them.
How much formula by weight
During the first 4 to 6 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, with a maximum of about 32 ounces daily.
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 offer a rough estimate for what your baby may require. Some babies will grow well while taking less than the recommended amount, while others consistently need more. Your baby's daily feedings will also vary according to her individual needs – in other words, she may want a bit more on some days and a bit less on others.
How much formula by age
As your baby gets older – and his tummy gets bigger – he'll drink fewer bottles a day with more formula in each. It's important not to overfeed your baby so he'll stay at a healthy weight. Your baby should drink no more than 32 ounces of formula in 24 hours.
Here are typical amounts per day based on age:
- The first week: Formula-feed your newborn on demand. Most new babies want to eat every two to three hours. For the first day or two, they may drink only half an ounce per feeding. After that, offer 1 to 2 ounces at each feeding for the rest of the week.
- By 2 weeks: 2 to 3 ounces at each feeding
- Weeks 2 to 4: 2 to 4 ounces every three to four hours
- By 1 month: at least 4 ounces about every three to four hours
- By 2 months: 4 to 5 ounces every three to four hours
- By 4 months: 4 to 6 ounces every three to four hours, with longer stretches at night
- By 6 months: 6 to 8 ounces every four to five hours, with longer stretches at night, especially if he's sleeping through the night
He's likely to level off once he reaches about 7 to 8 ounces per feeding.
When he reaches his first birthday, he can transition to whole cow's milk in a bottle or sippy cup, along with three solid meals and two snacks between meals per day.
Signs that your baby's getting the right amount of formula
Here are signs that your baby's getting all the formula she needs:
- Steady weight gain. She continues to gain weight after her first 10 days and follows a healthy growth curve during her first year. (Most babies lose up to 10 percent of their birth weight in the first few days and then regain it by the time they're about 10 days old.)
- Happy baby. She seems relaxed and satisfied after a feeding.
- Wet diapers. She wets two to three diapers (disposable or cloth) a day in the first few days after birth. Over the next few days, the amount should increase to at least five to six diapers a day if you're using disposable diapers, or six to eight if you're using cloth diapers. (Disposables hold more liquid.)
Signs your baby's getting too much formula
- 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 her legs or her tummy seems tense, she may be in pain. (See other possible reasons for stomach pain in babies.)
How the doctor can help
If you're worried that your baby is getting too little or too much formula, talk with his doctor. The doctor can:
- Check your baby's weight and growth
- Tell you whether his intake is appropriate for his size and age
- Advise you about any adjustments you may need to make
For answers to other formula feeding questions, visit our Formula Feeding Problem Solver.