How much formula does your baby need?
A common worry amongst first-time parents is that their child is either not getting enough formula or is drinking too much for them. This is difficult to gauge with breastfeeding, but with the formula, there are calculations you can do to ensure you know how much your little one is drinking. While we say calculations, by all means, you don’t have to be a math whizz to do them. Getting the hang of preparing the right amount of formula will come with some practice.
As we have said, it is very normal to be concerned about this, as all parents want to ensure their child is getting the right amount of milk to grow healthy and happy. It is important to remember that there is no ‘correct’ amount of milk for every child across the board; every child is different and so their needs will also be different. What you should do instead of obsessing over the right amount of formula, is observe your baby’s growth; your healthcare provider will assist with checkups to keep track that your baby is growing and gaining weight at a healthy rate.
Typically (and we mean it) infants gain between half an ounce and an ounce of weight every day for the first three months of their life. Between three and six months, they usually gain an ounce of weight every day. Despite stating that, in the first five days, it is normal for babies to lose as much as 10% of their birth weight. Therefore, if you notice a dip in their weight around this time, don’t panic. When they’re two weeks old, they should be back up to their birth weight.
Feeding times and amount
Babies give several signs they are hungry and tend to feed only when they are hungry, but also stop when they’re full.
The following are hunger cues that can be easily spotted:
- Smacking lips
- Touching their mouth
- Rooting reflex, where they move their head towards something and open their mouth in search of food.
Crying could be classed as a hunger cue if they have been hungry for a while, but babies cry to communicate a range of things, like a wet diaper, needing to be burped, or wanting to be picked up.
If your baby has surpassed the recommended amount of formula during a feed, don’t be alarmed. You don’t have to stop the feed, it just means you need to prepare a slightly larger bottle for the next feed. Finishing a bottle quickly and searching for more is an indication that they are still hungry; this can occur especially if they are having a growth spurt, which often happens around 1-3 weeks, 6-8 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, and 9 months - they can happen at any time though.
This brings us to the opposite scenario: if your baby isn’t finishing the bottle and appears to be full - or wants the milk in smaller quantities - this is okay too. Your baby may just be distracted or fidgets, which means they have done feeding.
There will also be days where your baby isn’t that hungry, or vice versa, and again this is perfectly normal, though there are guidelines on how much formula roughly your child should be consuming.
Standard advice would tell you that before solids are started on, in the first 4-6 months, they should drink around 2.5 fluid ounces (74ml) per pound of body weight every 24 hours. Putting this into an example, if your baby weighs 8 pounds, then they will need to have roughly 20 fl. Oz. through the day and night. However, that means the maximum they should drink is 32 fl. Oz (946ml). We have a feeding chart on our website that will aid you with the most suitable feeding amounts for your child.
A healthy intake of formula
While there are many ways to see if your baby is getting enough of the formula, the most important one is their mood after a feed. The normal mood for a baby after a fee is contentment and happiness. Another great way to detect if they’re drinking enough is the diaper changes; keep track of them as there is a general rule that formula-fed babies will need 5 or 6 diaper changes per day (6-8 if using cloth diapers).
Is drinking too much formula a thing?
If you are concerned that your baby is drinking too much, there will be signs such as projectile vomiting, tummy pain, or tension after a feed. Some spit-up is normal, but if they are doing so frequently or if there’s a lot, then that may also be a sign. If you feed them more often but with less formula, it may help to prevent this issue.
After keeping an eye on your baby’s growth, if you feel they are gaining weight too fast then you should speak to your doctor about it. This can occur if you’re feeding your baby when they’re not hungry but just want attention or just need to be burped. So make sure you watch out for these signs!
Your healthcare provider may recommend alternatives rather than giving the bottle to the baby - maybe cuddle them or play with them instead of trying to feed them more formula.
We also have formula feeding charts so you can know how much formula to mix with the water as well, so you know you’ve got the right amounts. Older babies tend to have fewer feeds - especially at night, so they need larger bottles for each feed. However, your baby still shouldn’t consume more than 32 fl oz of formula every 24 hours.
An important thing to note is that with European formulas, the measurements will be in milliliters (ml). Therefore, the conversions are included in the feeding chart so you have the option of looking up what formula you need in fluid ounces instead. Make sure you get the right unit of measurement otherwise it could all go wrong!
Once your baby reaches six months of age, there will be fewer feeds as your child will be introduced to solid foods. Those feeds will have larger bottles so they can hold more formula. When they get to one year old, they can safely transition onto cow’s milk or a stage 3 formula with three meals a day and healthy snacks.
For younger babies, you feed them on a “demand” basis, every two to three hours with just half a fluid ounce (15ml) of formula to start with. They can start to drink one to two fluid ounces after a few days.
Formula feeding chart
The special feeding chart we have on the website is a general guide for babies that are only fed formula. As an example of interpreting the chart, a six-week-old baby should have around 5 or 6 feeds a day with bottles that have 120ml (4.1 fl oz) and four scoops of powder. However, the mixing ratios are different for the Holle Goat formula, so consult the separate chart on the Holle Goat formula page on the website.