Are you wondering how much breastmilk should your newborn eat? Measuring the exact amount consumed is difficult if you breastfeed. While you can measure and track the amount consumed if you pump, there’s still the concern that a baby is spitting up more than they keep down. If you’re concerned that your newborn isn’t getting the milk that is needed to thrive, we have some answers to your biggest questions.
Answers to Your Newborn Feeding Questions:
1. How many ounces of breast milk should a newborn drink?
The method of delivery doesn’t change the amount of breast milk that your newborn baby needs to consume each day. Whether you breastfeed exclusively, supplement with bottles, or pump and bottle feed exclusively, your baby will require the same milk intake for satiety and growth.
Each baby is different, but there are some general guidelines that you can use to assess your baby’s consumption for a 24-hour period after your milk has fully dropped. You will produce small amounts of colostrum that fill your baby’s stomach in the first few days, but the following guidelines apply when your milk drops and your newborn’s stomach can hold more than colostrum:
- Babies need about 2.5 ounces of milk per pound of bodyweight daily. For example, a 7.5-pound newborn would need close to 19 ounces of breast milk each day.
- Most babies need no more than 30 ounces of milk daily. That means the ounces-per-pound calculation no longer applies once your baby exceeds 12 pounds.
- To determine how much breast milk your baby should consume at each feeding, divide the ounces needed for the day by the number of feedings expected.
These guidelines will give you a general idea of how much breast milk your newborn needs to consume each day and at each feeding. These aren’t absolutes, and you should never limit your baby to a pre-calculated amount of milk.
Some babies just need more or less milk to thrive. You also need to consider growth spurts, comfort feedings and countless other reasons that your baby may want more milk. You’re likely to find that your newborn is hungrier on some days than others. Use the calculations as a check to see if your baby is getting enough milk, but don’t use the numbers for restriction.
2. How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?
If you’re pumping and bottle feeding, you can measure your baby’s daily milk intake against the general guidelines listed above. Do this for several days to a week to get an average of how much milk your baby is consuming. One day’s consumption isn’t enough because your baby may have one sleepy day where they aren’t up to eating as much as most other days. Count a day as a full 24 hours, so nighttime feedings are included.
If you determine that your baby is consuming a bit more or less than their ounces-per-pound calculation, don’t worry. If your baby shows the following signs of satiety, they’re likely consuming just the right amount for their body’s unique needs:
- Your newborn appears content and isn’t overly fussy or lethargic between feedings. Babies tend to scream and get upset when they’re hungry. A very sleepy baby may not wake up enough to consume an adequate amount of milk. If your baby falls in between those extremes and seems happy and alert without a worrisome amount of sleeping, you likely have a satisfied and well-nourished newborn.
- During feedings, your baby settles into a rhythmic suckle and you can hear or see them swallow. If your baby is struggling to withdraw milk from a bottle or breast, they may spend more time vigorously suckling in an effort to release the milk. Once the milk is released, they should find a comfortable rhythm that gives them moments to swallow as needed. If your baby struggles to stay latched to a nipple or seems to fuss a lot during feedings, you should see a lactation consultant or doctor with experience helping babies latch successfully.
- Your baby produces at least four to six wet diapers and two or three bowel movements in a 24-hour period. Some babies will produce more, but this is a general guideline that will help you determine if your baby is eating enough to produce the expected amount of waste. A sudden drop in the number of diapers wet or dirtied should trigger a well check with your doctor or pediatrician.
- Your newborn isn’t gaining enough weight. The first week to 10 days of life may bring fluctuating weight or modest weight loss. By day 10, your baby should weigh at least their birth weight. If you don’t think your baby is gaining weight or they continue losing weight after the first week, you should schedule a well check with your doctor or pediatrician right away.
If you breastfeed exclusively, you don’t have the luxury of measuring the exact amount of milk consumed each day. You can still use all of these signs of satiety to determine that your baby is consuming the right amount of milk for their unique needs.
3. What if a newborn is feeding every hour? Is that okay?
Most newborn babies feed about every two hours around the clock after your milk has dropped. Before your milk drops, just allow the baby to feed whenever they want. Their stomachs can hold only a small amount of colostrum at a time, and some babies will need replenished quite often.
If your little one wants to eat every hour once your milk drops, they may simply have a high demand for nourishment. Newborns may also use feeding for comfort and reassurance. If your baby fits all of the signs of satiety listed above, then you may not have anything to worry about. Your baby should start to feed less often as they grow. A high demand for milk early on will also help you establish a healthy milk supply.
If your newborn is feeding about every hour and seems unusually fussy and unsatisfied between feedings, they may not be receiving an adequate amount of milk at each feeding. In that case, they’re feeding more often because they’re hungry and need more nourishment for comfort and growth. You may notice that your baby is very aggressive and fast when trying to feed if they’re struggling to release a satisfying flow of milk. You should see a lactation consultant and your pediatrician as soon as possible.
Your baby may also want to feed every hour if they aren’t feeding long enough each time. Try to empty both of your breasts at each feeding. If your baby seems to fall asleep when feeding, try stripping away blankets and clothing and switching to a more upright holding position. You can also brush your baby’s cheeks, talk to your baby, or put on upbeat, energetic music to help them stay awake.
It’s also possible that you just haven’t learned your baby’s hunger cues yet. Perhaps you’re offering a bottle or the breast every time they cry or whine. There are many reasons that a baby may get fussy, including simply wanting your attention or feeling a bit too hot or chilly. Crying is their only form of communication, and every cry isn’t a sign of hunger.
Once a baby starts screaming, they are beyond the point of hunger. It’s best to pick up subtler hunger cues, including:
- Turning head side to side
- Sticking out tongue
- Suckling or smacking lips
- Pushing head into a breast
- Opening mouth and moving head toward a breast or nipple
4. What is a typical newborn feeding schedule week-by-week?
In the first three to five days of life, your newborn is consuming small amounts of colostrum. Their stomach isn’t large enough to hold a high volume of milk, and your body is busy preparing the first letdown of nourishing milk. Your baby is likely to eat frequently until the full flow of milk is released. It’s common for newborns to consume just a half ounce of colostrum at each feeding in the first few days.
Once the milk is released, your baby should start feeding every two to three hours. Breast milk is processed a bit faster than most formulas, so breastfed babies tend to feed closer to the three-hour mark. Formula babies often go three to four hours between feedings. These feedings are around the clock, which is why newborns and sleep deprivation go hand in hand.
Many babies start stretching their feedings out to every four or five hours by the second month of life. By six months, they may go five hours or longer.
5. What should I do if my baby isn’t getting enough milk?
If you don’t think your baby is eating enough, schedule a doctor appointment right away. A pediatrician or family doctor can measure and weigh your baby while checking for other signs that your baby is malnourished. If it’s determined that your baby is healthy and growing at the expected rate, you will have peace of mind. If a problem is detected, you will have a medical team on your side to find a cause and solution.