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How much formula does my baby need?

Amy Lynn Stockhausen, MD, FAAP


​The American Academy of  Pediatrics (AAP) recommends  exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life, if possible. But certain medical reasons may prevent breastfeeding from being the best or only option. Commercially available iron-fortified infant formulas are the safest and most effective alternatives to breast milk. 

Learn the hunger signals: 

On average, babies need 2½ ounces of formula a day for every pound of body weight. But if your baby was born full-term at a healthy weight, it’s best to practice “on demand” or responsive feedingLearning your baby’s hunger signals will help both of you realize his individual needs. If he becomes fidgety or easily distracted during a feeding, he’s probably done. If he drains the bottle and keeps smacking his lips, he may still be hungry. As long as your baby is growing and gaining weight, is happy most of the time, and is not spitting up too much, then he is taking the right amount for him. 


A few days after they’re born, formula-fed newborns usually drink 2 to 3 ounces of formula per feeding and will want to eat every three to four hours. By the end of her first month she’ll likely be up to at least four ounces per feeding, often with a fairly regular schedule of feedings about every four hours.  

Wake a sleeping baby? 

If your baby sleeps longer than to hours during the first month and starts missing feedings, wake her up and offer a bottle. Between 2 and 4 months of age, or when the baby weighs at least 12 pounds, most formula-fed babies no longer need a middle-of-the-night feeding. 

Growing needs: 

As your baby becomes more active, her calorie needs will go up and she may not be satisfied with the same amount of formula. If she still acts hungry after finishing a bottle or wants to eat more often than she usually does, this may mean she is ready for larger feedings. Try increasing feedings by one ounce at time. 

Don’t overfeed: 

Most babies will increase the amount of formula they drink by an average of 1 ounce per month before leveling off at about 7 to 8 ounces per feeding. In general, babies don’t need more than 32 ounces of formula in 24 hours. If your baby seems to always want more or less than this, discuss it with your pediatricianUnhealthy eating patterns that can lead to obesity sometimes begin during infancy, so it is important not to overfeed your baby. 


If you have additional questions, don't keep them bottled up! Talk with your pediatrician about any questions or concerns you have about feeding your baby. 

Editor's Note: The AAP recommends breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for your baby for about 6 months. When you add solid foods to your baby's diet, continue breastfeeding until at least 12 months. You can continue to breastfeed after 12 months if you and your baby desire. Check with your child's doctor about the recommendations for vitamin D and iron supplements during the first year. 

Amy Lynn Stockhausen, MD, FAAP

​​​Amy Lynn Stockhausen, MD, FAAP, is a Clinical Associate Professor of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. After 15 years practicing full-spectrum rural pediatric medicine and engaging in both clinical and administrative physician leadership, she has recently re-entered academic medicine. She is a member of the Wisconsin State Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

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American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2018)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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