How Much Formula Should a Baby Eat?
If you've ever googled things like "how much formula should baby eat" or "how often should I feed my baby" don't worry. You're not alone!
It’s safe to say there are a lot of parenting questions that moms and dads have after bringing their baby home for the first time—and how much should my baby eat is definitely toward the top of the list. But newborns don’t come with an instruction manual. (Even though that would be helpful.) And navigating all the diaper changes, sleep routines and everything in between isn’t always a walk in the park.
I was one of those parents with questions. I breastfed my own little girl for the first year of her life, but considered supplementing with formula when I returned back to work from maternity leave, especially when I was struggling with my own milk supply. Here are the answers I wish I had.
How Much Formula Does a New Baby Need?
New babies change and grow by the minute, and so do their formula feeding needs. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following formula guidelines:
- Newborns: Good news for new, tired parents: A newborn baby’s stomach is so small he doesn’t need a ton of formula to become full. A new baby needs just 1 to 2 ounces of formula during each feeding session. If you think your newborn might still be hungry, you can offer more formula than that.
- First Weeks to 5 Months: When a newborn transitions from the first days to the first weeks of her life, the ounces of formula will fluctuate—and the time between each feeding session will grow longer. Feedings might be inconsistent at this stage, ranging from 4 to 6 ounces of formula. At this age, your baby will drink the amount of formula she needs, stopping once she’s full.
- 6 to 12 Months: During this time, an infant needs about 6 to 8 ounces of formula during each feeding session. Since infants start on solid foods at this age, yours will require slightly less formula each day when he’s eating solid foods.
- 12 to 24 Months: This is when babies stop drinking formula. For baby’s first birthday and beyond, you can gradually offer cow’s milk. Start swapping one formula feeding for cow’s milk every day to start.
Editor’s Tip: Even though these guidelines are useful, it’s always important to speak with your child’s pediatrician about how much formula to give.
Your Baby’s Formula Needs May Change
While guidelines are helpful, it’s important to remember that your baby’s nutrition needs can vary from day to day. Most babies need to consume about 2.5 ounces of formula per day for every pound of their total body weight. This means that a 7-pound baby will probably need about 17.5 ounces of formula in 24 hours.
It is normal for your baby to eat slightly different amounts each day. If your little one seems distracted or fussy by the end of the feeding, it’s best to stop. If they continue sucking and smacking their lips, they’re probably still hungry and could use a bit more.
How Often Should You a Feed a New Baby Formula?
Just like the amount of formula a new baby needs, how often she needs to be fed changes, too.
- Newborns: It’s best to feed your newborn on demand. This means offering formula every time they cry with hunger. A newborn’s feeding schedule usually averages out to about every 2 to 3 hours during their first days of life. Most formula-fed newborns will eat 8 to 12 times per day in a 24-hour period.
- First Weeks to 5 Months: Babies in this age group should generally be fed formula about every 3 to 4 hours, which means you might need to wake them up to get their feeding in. Try gently patting or stroking your baby, or changing their diaper in order to do so.
- 6 to 12 Months: It’s important to feed your baby whenever they show signs of hunger, but 6- to 12-month-old infants will need to be formula fed—and fed introductory solid foods—about 5 to 6 times per day.
- 12 to 24 Months: Since babies will be eating more solid foods and supplementing formula with cow’s milk between 12 and 24 months, the number of times they require formula each day will decrease to about 2 to 3 times per day.
Formula Feeding Tips for Every Parent
You might be overwhelmed by formula feeding, but don’t worry—we have a few formula selection, storage and preparation tricks that make the process go much more smoothly.
Find the right formula. Before your baby’s first formula feeding session, do a little research and check out which types of formula are available. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pediatricians recommend iron-fortified infant formulas in either liquid or powdered form. Find some of our baby formula recommendations.
Stay clean. Before each formula feeding session, sanitize each baby bottle, nipple, ring and cap by hand. If it clearly states on the packaging that any of those items are dishwasher-safe, it’s totally OK to save time and do it that way, too!
Skip the microwave. While preparing formula, always stick to the formula’s instructions. But don’t heat it in the microwave—doing so will create uneven hot spots in the milk, which can burn your baby’s mouth or throat. Instead, hold a bottle under warm running water (just make sure the water doesn’t get in the bottle or on the nipple). Safely test a couple drops of infant formula on the back of your hand to see if it’s too hot, or not hot enough.
Hold tight. Moms and dads who are feeding their baby formula should also be mindful of the positioning they’re using, so that the baby’s head is not too far forward or too far back—check with your pediatrician to see how an ideal feeding position should look.
Here’s our complete guide to feeding a baby from 0-12 months.
The Million Dollar Question
It’s the question all new parents wonder about but are afraid to ask: When will my baby sleep through the night?
Most formula-fed babies are ready to give up their nighttime feed by the time they are about 2 to 4 months old and at least 12 pounds.
Carrie Madormo, RN contributed to this article.