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A rough guide to how much milk and food your little one needs as they grow!
Remember, all babies are different, and there are no hard and fast rules to this. However, these guidelines will give you a good idea of whether your little one is eating the proper amount as expected from their age.
How much should a newborn eat?
Due to the tiny size of their little bellies, newborn babies need to eat pretty frequently. Did you know that a newborn stomach is only the size of a walnut!
If you’re breastfeeding, the guidance on how often they should nurse varies.
The NHS (UK) recommends feeding your baby on demand. This means you watch for signs of hunger (see Kellymom) and feed your baby as often as he feels he needs. Your baby will create their own schedule of when they need to nurse.
However, it also advised to aim for at least 8 feeds every 24 hours.
A breastfeed on a single breast will last an average of 10-15 minutes. Some infants will take a bit longer, some will take a bit less.
Just remember that every baby is different. I always felt that my baby didn’t seem to want ‘enough milk, ’ but it turned out he was just a quicker eater!
Kellymom explains how to monitor weight gain and diapers to ensure that baby is getting enough milk.
A baby should fully empty one breast before moving to the next. This is due to the change of milk from foremilk to higher calorie hindmilk as a feed progresses. Your baby will be more satisfied if they get enough hindmilk.
If you’re formula-feeding, it should be a little easier to keep track of how much milk your little one is getting.
Formula-fed newborns generally need to eat every three to four hours and usually eat about 2-3 ounces of formula per feeding.
Listen to your baby.
With both breast and bottle feeding, always pay attention to your baby’s feeding cues.
Signs that they have had enough for now include:
- Becoming disinterested in the bottle or breast.
- falling asleep (although this is common in sleepy newborns).
- turning their head away.
- pushing the bottle or breast away.
Signs that they are still hungry may be:
- lip smacking
Bear in mind though that, although you cannot overfeed a breastfed baby, you should make sure not to overfeed on formula.
How much should a 1 – 3 month old eat?
Not surprisingly, you’ll expect to see your little one’s appetite increase at this time.
He will also be more vocal about letting you know he’s hungry since he’ll be less sleepy now.
A three-month-old should be eating 5 ounces of milk about 6 to 8 times a day.
Many breastfeeding moms worry about their milk supply at this point as infants can go through growth spurts at this age. Your infant may feed more frequently for a couple of days to help increase breastmilk production.
How much should a 4 – 6 month old eat?
This is where to the confusion around solid foods can begin.
Is my baby ready for solid foods?
How can I tell?
Should they just stick to milk?
Lots of popular baby food brands state that they are ‘suitable from 4 months.’
You may also have friends or relatives telling you that your child is ‘clearly ready for solid foods’ and that ‘babies had solid foods at three months in their day.’
Along with (false) promises that solid foods will make baby sleep through the night, it can be easy to be persuaded to get started on solids!
In fact, the World Health Organisation (along with the NHS and the American Institute for Paediatrics) advise that babies do not start solid food until six months. Before this, their digestive systems may not be able to cope with solids.
There is also a risk of obesity or developing allergies if starting solids too early.
Since baby should still take the majority of their calories and nutrients from milk to begin with, filling a baby up on solids may result in them taking in less milk, and their weight may be affected.
Is baby ready for solids? Read the signs.
There are several signs which are often wrongly misread as signs that your baby is ready for solids:
- chewing fists (or putting other things in their mouth).
- waking in the night when they have previously slept through.
- wanting extra milk feeds (NHS).
Genuine signs of readiness for solids include:
- Being able to stay in a sitting position.
- Holding their head steady.
- Coordinating their eyes, hands, and mouth so that they can accurately pick up food and bring it to their mouth.
- Able to take a spoon without pushing it out of the mouth
- Showing an interest in the food parents are eating.
Baby should be able to do all of these things before tackling solid foods.
When you start feeding your little one solids, aim for 1-3 tablespoons of food for one or two meals a day.
Pureed vegetables like carrot are a good, healthy starting point or you may prefer to try baby-led weaning, using small pieces of food which your baby can pick up themselves.
It is important to be aware of what foods your baby must avoid:
- Unpasteurized cheeses
- Honey (until one year of age)
- Raw or partly cooked egg
- Coffee or tea (Bounty)
Many people also advise baby rice cereal as a first food, although there is no evidence that there is any nutritional benefit to this.
You may find, though, that by mixing it with breastmilk or formula, it is a good way to transition your baby onto more flavorful foods which may seem strange to your little one at first.
Introduce a new food over 2-3 days so you can tell if your baby is having a reaction to the new food.
Trust your instincts and do what you think is right for your baby!
Just don’t forget that you are helping your little one experiment with food at this stage and that their primary form of nutrition is still breast milk or formula.
How much should a 7 -9 month old eat?
A baby should be having 24 to 32 oz of formula a day at this stage. Breastfed babies may feed every 3-6 hours.
Around this age they should be drinking roughly 7-8oz about 3-4 times a day. However, don’t be surprised if they move towards dropping a milk feed.
You should also gradually introduce a wider variety of solid foods to their diet over these few months. Food should be mashed or pureed.
This is the perfect age to begin offering a two-course meal at each of their three daily sittings!
It’s suggested to start with something savory:
- meat/fish/eggs/pulses(legumes)/nut butter
- a starchy food like potato, rice or pasta
And then move onto a dessert such as fruit or yogurt.
Each meal can consist of a small bowl of puree as well as a few bites of finger foods.
How much should a 9 – 12 month old eat?
By this point, baby can have three small meals a day, perhaps sharing mealtimes with the rest of the family!
Whatever you are eating, baby can enjoy in bite-size pieces!
(Just be aware of excessive sugar, salt, and spice which could be unhealthy or unpleasant for your little one).
Ensure that they have a balanced diet to stay healthy.
As well as at least 600ml of formula or breastmilk a day until they’re a year old it’s also likely that your baby will be enjoying water to quench their thirst alongside their meals.
Fruit juice and sugary drinks are not necessary. They provide empty calories.
Baby may drop further milk feeds at this age, going down to two or three feeds a day.
If you are ever unsure about your baby’s eating habits or weight gain, don’t hesitate to speak to your doctor or health professional.