Updated: Mar 24
I often get inquiry from new mothers about how much to feed their babies.
So, I’ve decided to compile a simple guidance for all you first time mother about what the baby really needs in a series of article dedicated to infant nutrition.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE: If you have a healthy term baby, breast milk or formula is all your baby need for the first 6 months of life. No additional water or other food is necessary at this period.
First Month of Life Baby’s stomach is pretty tiny for the first few weeks of life, they only need a few drops of milk at each feeding during the first few day and then slowly increase about one ounce per week to about 3-5 ounces at about one month of life. If you are breastfeeding, you probably will be feeding the baby on demand (usually 10-12 feedings during this first month).
Don’t worry if your milk supply hasn’t come in yet, just continue to practice good feeding techniques to help stimulates supply. Many elders may get worried and urge you to supplement early but always check in with lactation consultant and a maternal health dietitian as to what to do. Remember, each baby is different as well, if you have a premature baby, their stomach capacity is even smaller and vice versa if you have a large baby, then they probably will need more.
This photo below illustrated the baby’s stomach size and the approximate milk content you should be feeding the baby if you are using a bottle. If you are breastfeeding, the baby usually will release their latch when they are satisfied and full.
If you are exclusively breastfeeding, your baby pediatrician will recommend a Vitamin D supplementation about 1 ml drop per day (400 IU) given orally to your baby as our human milk is lacking in Vitamin D to help support bone development. Increasing mother’s Vitamin D intake may increase the Vitamin D in the milk content but mother’s daily intake has to be consistent at about 4,000-5,000 IU daily. Breastfeeding women’s who lives in Africa or in tropical countries usually able to obtain adequate sunlight daily (full body 15-20 minutes sun exposure), may not require to supplement their infant with Vitamin D.
One Month to 3 Months of Age During this 2-3 months time frame, your baby needs for milk remains the same. Most baby is now able to tolerate between 3-5 ounces of milk at each feeding and usually eat at a 3 hours interval (average about 8 feedings/day). Don’t be surprise if you are still feeding your baby about 10-12 feeds if you are breastfeeding, again, it is on demand and we can’t really measure how much milk baby is taking in.
If your breast is full and firm at the beginning of the feed and then becoming soft and empty at the end of the feed, this is a good sign that baby is effectively removing milk from your breast. Always feed on one breast until it is empty and then offer the other side when the baby still wants more.
Four Months to 6 Months of Age Your baby now can tolerate between 6-8 ounces of milk at each feeding with a total of 4-6 feedings per day (about 4-5 hours between feed). Yay ! That means, you can get some longer naps in between feeding together with your munchkin. It is also normal to feed baby 4-6 oz at each feeding but more frequently at 3-4 hours interval each. There really is no golden rule here as long as your baby is getting a minimal of 32-36 ounces of breast milk or formula in one day.
Your baby also should doubled their birth weight by 4-5 months old. Don’t try to introduce solids food to baby too early. Each baby development milestone is different and it is solely depending on how ready they are. How do we know when he/she is ready ? Here’s a few checklist to determine:
Can he/she sit up and hold his neck without support ?
Does he/she open their mouth when seeing a spoon approaching their way?
Can he/she move the solids food from tongue to throat? (If you try to feed the baby and the cereal tends to drip down their chin as baby pushes the content out instead of swallowing, that means they are not ready)
If you answer yes to all of the above, congratulations !! Your baby maybe ready to start complimentary solids food. Just as I said “complimentary” foods, this should not replace the breast milk and formula the baby still needs at this time. Most common first food to start at around 6 months is rice/oatmeal/barley cereal as they are enriched with iron as baby’s iron store is beginning to diminished at about 6 months of age. When starting solid foods, make sure you only introduce one new food at a time so that you can trace back if any intolerance or allergies were to happen. A few teaspoon is always a good start then slowly increase to 1 tablespoon a few days later.
This How_To_Feed_Baby-English guidelines obtained from Oregon Dairy Council is a good resource that I often give to new parent at the nutrition clinic to re-assure them how much is enough to feed the baby.