How Much Breast Milk Does My Baby Need?

This is a question a lot of mothers ask when they have to be away from their for a while. Normally, when you breastfeed your baby, you can’t see exactly how much your baby is eating. Even though that is the case, there is an easy way to calculate this it.

Approximate Amount Based on Age

If you want an approximate amount based on your baby’s age, check the following:

  • Three days old – 0.5 oz of milk per feeding
  • Four days old – 1.0 oz of milk per feeding
  • Five days old – 1.5 oz of milk per feeding
  • Fourteen days old – 20 oz of milk per day. Calibrate +/- 4 oz based on your situation. If your baby is still hungry after drinking 20z then add 1.0 oz to 4.0 oz more, and vice versa.

Approximate Amount Based on Weight

Your baby should be drinking two ounces of milk for every pound of weight that she has. The rule of thumb is to never go past thirty two ounces of milk per day. Here’s an example of how the formula works:

  • Six pound baby – 6 x 2 oz = 12 oz, so 12 ounces of milk per day
  • Seven pound baby – 7 x 2 oz = 14oz, so 14 ounces of milk per day
  • Eight pound baby – 8 x 2 oz = 16oz, so 16 ounces of milk per day
  • Ten pound baby – 10 x 2 oz = 20oz, so 20 ounces of milk per day
  • Sixteen pound baby – 16 x 2oz = 32oz, so 32 ounces of milk per day
  • Twenty pound baby – 32 oz because 32 is the max you should feed a baby per day despite the age and weight

Of course, two ounces per feeding is only a minimum estimate. Ideally, your baby should not drink less than this number. If your baby wants to drink more, then by all means go up to three ounces of milk per pound of weight they have instead of two.

After you calculated the amount of milk per day, you now have to convert it into the amount per feeding. The calculations works like this:

  1. Record the amount of times your baby drinks milk in a day.
  2. Let’s say for example, your baby drinks milk ten times a day.
  3. If you have calculated that your baby need 16 ounces of milk per day total, then you will need to divide 16 ounces by 10 times or
  4. 16 / 10 = 1.6oz. In this situation your baby needs 1.6 ounces of milk per feeding.

Readjust Feeding Amounts During Growth Spurts

During growth spurt, your baby will be hungrier than usual and drink more often, so it is possible that the numbers I gave you earlier are almost completely useless. Usually the first growth spurt will happen right when your breastmilk begins to flow steadily. This can happen within a week or two after your baby is born. Every baby is different so this might not even apply to you.

Generally speaking a baby’s growth spurt happens in this pattern:

  • First growth spurt – 1 to 2 weeks after birth
  • Second growth spurt – 1 to 1.5 months after birth
  • Third growth spurt – Three months after birth
  • Fourth growth spurt – Six months after birth
  • Fifth growth spurt – Nine months after birth

Will You Have Enough Milk To Satisfy The Growth Spurt?

No matter how much you feed your baby, there will always be enough. Your body is smart. It will create more based on the circumstances. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, because your baby is literally drinking you dry.

What Are Other Signs Of Growth Spurt?

Other than hunger, some babies might grow bigger and taller overnight. You will notice when you try to dress her in her onesies and they are a bit tighter fit than the day before.

Your baby’s sleep pattern will also throw you off schedule. She might sleep much more than usual. If that’s the case, don’t wake her up to feed. If your breasts starts feeling uncomfortable from the milk pressure, then express it into bottles temporarily. Even though your baby is sleeping, and missing a feeding, she will make up for it once she wakes up.

On the other hand, your baby might sleep less than usual, and suddenly wake up in the middle of the night for a feeding. There’s no real pattern you can follow. Quite often, she will even be more fussy and wants more attention. If you try to put her down, she might cry and ask your to continue holding her. It can’t be helped. Be patient, do your best and cuddle her more. See this as a chance to strengthen your bond with your baby.

Growth spurt symptoms usually don’t last long. Within three days, she should calm down and go back to being the normal baby she was before. If she is fussy beyond that time frame, then you should contact your pediatrician to see if she is sick.

Of course, other than growth spurt, it is also normal for your baby to take 3 to 5 oz per feeding. She will simply eat less frequently during the day.

Watch Out For Overfeeding

When you express milk into bottles, you might notice that your baby seems to be able to finish off all the milk much faster than usual. This is usually not because you are lacking milk production. Other than growth spurt reasons, this is normally a sign that your bottle nipple might be flowing a bit too fast for her.

For babies that are three months or younger, it is normal for them to not be able to control their sucking reflex. They would tend to suck uncontrollably. Normally, drinking from an actual breast requires more effort from the baby, because milk won’t come out unless the baby sucks it out.

For bottles, that’s an entirely different story. Quite often the milk will flow out whether your baby is ready or not. This has a tendency to lead to overfeeding your baby. This is the reason why formula fed babies apparently drink a lot more milk. It’s not because they need more milk. It is because they are overeating.

In this kind of situation, you have buy a slower flowing bottle nipple. What that means is that the new bottle nipple will have a smaller hole, hence the slower flow. Of course, this doesn’t solve most of your problems. Like I mentioned earlier, if your baby is younger than three months old, she would tend to want to suck more. Instead of feeding her every time she cries and throws a fit, try giving her a pacifier to see if this can calm her down.

Try A Pacifier But Not Too Early

Ideally, try not to give your baby a pacifier too early. You should let your baby adjust to your breast first so that your baby doesn’t become over reliant on the pacifier. Usually this takes a month of time. Of course, if your unique circumstance forces you to give your baby the pacifier before that period is up then by all means do so.

Besides, pacifier lowers the chances of sudden infant death syndrome, so it is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just more work for you when you want to have her latch onto your breasts properly in the beginning.

What If Your Baby Drinks Less While You Are Away?

There is something known as reverse cycling.  This means that your baby drinks very little milk from bottles. However, when she latches onto your breasts, she drinks a lot to make up for her small feedings. This can happen when you are helping your baby transition to bottle. It can be a difficult process so just be patient.

Does Starting Solid Food Change Anything

When your baby starts solid food, she might drink a bit less than usual. This is even more apparent if your feed a lot of veggies and fruits which has high water content. However, even though that’s the case, try to aim for 32 oz per day standard. Breast milk is the ideal nutrition for your baby that is younger than twelve months, because it helps development, especially the nerves and the brains.

Besides, babies younger than 12 months aren’t really relying on solid food for nutrition. You start during that time because it is a process to transition them to solid foods eventually. It still doesn’t serve as a replacement for milk until she is older.

Signs That Your Baby Is Drinking Enough Milk

Babies tend to give subtle cues that they are full and satisfied. Some of these signs might include:

  • Falling asleep right after a feeding
  • Fidgeting and squirming while drinking milk
  • Re-latching onto the first breast after finishing with the second breast – This usually thoroughly satisfies a baby because babies like to suck.

Signs That Your Baby Is Gaining Enough Nutrition

Having enough wet diapers through the day is a good sign unless there’s diarrhea or bloody diarrhea. Wetting enough diapers or peeing enough is usually a good sign.

Her fontanel (soft beating part of her skull) should not sink. If it is sunken in then she is most likely dehydrated. There shouldn’t be an color spots in her diapers especially if the color is orange or pink.

I hope this article is helpful to you. If you have any questions, please leave it in the comments section below.