How Much Formula Does Your Baby Need?
Many first-time parents worry that their little one is not getting enough formula, or is drinking too much. When you’re using a bottle rather than breastfeeding, there are a few calculations involved to determine the amount of formula your baby should be getting every few hours. However, you certainly don’t have to be a math wiz to ensure that your little one is fed, happy, and healthy. You’ll soon get the hang of preparing bottles, and you’ll get used to your baby’s cues indicating when they are hungry or, just as importantly, full.
Concerns about formula feeding amounts are perfectly understandable, as all parents want their babies to be fed the right amount to meet their needs. However, it’s important to keep in mind that there isn’t an exact quantity of formula that every baby should be getting. Every baby is different, so don’t spend too much time worrying about precise measurements, as this can drive you a bit crazy! Some babies grow absolutely fine with slightly less formula, while others will require slightly more.
Keep an Eye on Growth
The most important thing is that your baby is growing and gaining weight at a healthy rate. Checking in regularly with your pediatrician will ensure that he or she is tracking your baby’s growth curve, which is the best way to determine whether your little one is getting enough formula. Typically, infants gain between half an ounce and an ounce of weight every day for their first three months, and around half an ounce a day between the ages of three months and six months.
It’s normal for babies to lose as much as 10% of their birth weight in the first five days, so don’t panic if you notice your newborn’s weight dipping in those early days. By the age of two weeks, your little one should be back up to their birth weight.
When and How Much to Feed
Generally, babies will feed when they are hungry and will stop when they’re full, and they’re usually very good at letting their parents know when they want to feed!
Pay attention to these hunger cues from your baby:
- Rooting reflex (moving their head towards a stimulus and opening their mouth in search of food)
- Smacking lips
- Touching their mouth
Crying can certainly be an indication of hunger (and it usually means that your baby has already been hungry for a while), but it can also indicate a number of other things, including a wet diaper, needing to be burped, or simply wanting to be picked up and cuddled.
If your baby wants to continue feeding, but has slightly surpassed the recommended amount of formula, there’s no reason to be concerned, and you certainly don’t need to stop the feed immediately. Instead, try preparing a slightly larger bottle next time. If your baby finishes a bottle quickly and immediately starts looking for more, that’s a clear indication that they are still hungry! This is especially likely if your baby is experiencing a growth spurt. Although these can happen at any time, they often occur between one to three weeks, six to eight weeks, three months, six months, and nine months. Being extra hungry is completely normal during a growth spurt.
On the other hand, if your baby can’t quite finish the bottle you’ve prepared, or wants to feed somewhat more frequently in smaller quantities, that’s also fine. You should never try to push your little one to finish a bottle. When your baby becomes distracted or begins to fidget, that almost certainly means that they’re finished. You may also notice that your baby is hungrier on some days than others, which is also to be expected.
That being said, there are some general (and very approximate) guidelines for how much formula your baby should be drinking at each feed, and how many feeds per day are appropriate for their age.
- The standard advice is that during the first four to six months, before solids are introduced, your little one should drink approximately 2.5 fluid ounces (74 mL) per pound of body weight in every 24-hour period. For example, if your baby weighs eight pounds, you’ll want to provide approximately 20 fl oz (591 mL) throughout the day and night.
- The maximum amount of formula that your baby should be drinking every 24 hours is 32 fl oz (946 mL).
Check out our Little Bundle formula feeding chart (see below, or on any Little Bundle product page) for a quick guide to formula amounts. This also includes guidance on ready-made (pre-mixed) formula.
Signs of Healthy Formula Intake
There are numerous ways to judge whether your baby is getting the right amount of formula. Perhaps the most important is to note your baby’s mood after a feed; they should be feeling relaxed, content, and happy.
Keeping track of diaper changes is also a very effective way to monitor your baby’s formula intake. As a general rule, formula-fed babies will need five or six diaper changes per day (or six to eight changes if you’re using cloth diapers, which are thinner).
Can Babies Drink Too Much Formula?
If you’re concerned that your baby is feeding too much, there are some signs to watch out for. These will probably be very obvious, such as vomiting (as in projectile vomiting), or experiencing tummy pain or tension after a feed.
Although some spit up is perfectly normal in babies, if your little one is spitting up very frequently or in large quantities, it might mean that he or she is drinking too much. Feeding more frequently, but with a less volume at each feed, could help.
If you feel your baby is gaining weight rapidly, speak to your doctor about whether he or she thinks your baby might be feeding too much. This is most likely to happen if you feed your baby when they aren’t actually hungry, but are simply bored or wanting attention, or even just needing to be burped! Your pediatrician may recommend alternatives to defaulting to another bottle, such as cuddling or playing with your baby. You’ll also want to make sure that you’re preparing formula in the right proportions, so that your baby isn’t accidentally getting too much formula powder and too little water.
As you’ll note from the formula feeding chart, older babies have fewer feeds (especially during the night), with larger bottles at each feed. Still, your baby should not be intaking more than 32 fl oz (946 mL) of formula per 24-hour period.
Important Things to Note:
- If your baby is on a European formula such as HiPP, Holle, or Lebenswert, please note that all of the measurements on the packaging and instructions will be in milliliters (mL). Since fluid ounces are more commonly used in North America, we have included the conversions in this chart. Please take care when measuring to ensure that you are using the correct units.
- Once your baby is six months old, they will begin to eat solid foods and will have fewer feeds, with each bottle containing more formula. Beginning on your baby’s first birthday, your little one can safely transition to drinking cow’s milk (or a Stage 3 formula), along with eating three meals a day, supplemented by healthy snacks.
- For the youngest formula-fed babies, the best thing to do is consult with your doctor about how much formula you should give your little one. At this age, babies essentially feed on demand, every two to three hours, starting out with just half a fluid ounce of formula (15 mL) at a time. After the first few days, they are likely to start drinking around one or two fluid ounces (30-60 mL) at each feed.
- If your baby is not exclusively formula fed (ie. some feeds are breast milk and some are formula), please consult with your pediatrician for guidance about combination feeding.
Formula Feeding Chart
Please note that this chart is a general guide for how much an exclusively formula-fed baby will feed per day. For example, a six-week-old baby should have five or six feeds each day, with each bottle containing 120 mL (4.1 fl oz) of water and four scoops of formula powder. Alternatively, on ready-made formula, a six-week-old baby would have five or six feeds each day, drinking 135 ml (4.6 fl oz) of pre-mixed formula at each feed.
If your baby is on Holle Goat, there are different mixing ratios that should be used for that formula. Please refer to the feeding chart on the Holle Goat Product Pages.