Feeding Patterns and Quantities

How Much Milk Should I Give My Baby and How Often?

Breastfeeding On Demand

Many health professionals advocate feeding on demand. This is where you feed your baby whenever he or she is hungry and for as long as your baby wants. If you are feeding on demand, then the question of how much and how often to feed is removed as your baby will show you that he or she has finished and had enough milk by either letting go of your breast or falling asleep. Your baby will also let you know when he or she wants to feed again.

Breastfeeding on demand is particularly important in the early days. It encourages your milk supply, it gives your baby the colostrum you are producing and it helps to help establish breast feeding. Some babies then settle into a pattern of feeding quite quickly. Others take longer. You will find that feeding will vary from day to day in length and frequency, but over the first month or so will settle down into some sort of pattern, generally feeding every two to three hours in the early months and then three to four hours later on.

Breastfed babies usually feed more frequently than formula fed babies because breast milk is digested more quickly than formula. It's not unusual for a breastfed baby to be hungry again after a couple of hours. Additionally, it's hard to know how much your baby is taking, unless you pump and weigh your milk.

What Is In My Breast Milk?

It is helpful to understand the composition of your milk. Breast milk is made up of 2 parts. The first is sometimes referred to as 'foremilk'. It is a bit like skimmed milk insofar as it is quite watery and it satisfies your baby's thirst. As the feed progresses it becomes slightly thicker with a higher protein content. Towards the end of your feed the milk becomes much richer and this stage is often referred to as the hindmilk. This is thick and creamy and has all the good fat that helps your baby put on weight. Your baby does not usually reach this milk until fifteen minutes or so into the feed.

To ensure your baby gets enough milk you need to make sure they feed for long enough to reach the hindmilk. If you change breasts too soon or are demand feeding and let your baby stop their feed when they fall asleep a few minutes into the feed, then your baby is only getting to the foremilk and never the hindmilk.

It is important that you keep your baby on the breast long enough for them to take an entire feed. When you think that they have emptied one breast, offer them the other breast and always start the next feed on the side that you ended on last time. Getting to know yourself and your baby will also help you to be confident that they are getting all the milk they the need - learning how your breasts feel when they have been fully emptied, and the signs your baby gives when they are satisfied - all will aid you in ensuring your baby has taken enough.

Bottle Feeding: How Much Formula?

With formula feeding, the composition of the milk never changes (although feeding on demand is still recommended), as it does with breast milk, however the baby will need to take more as he gets bigger. The following amounts will vary from baby to baby, but do provide a good guide, but of course this will vary from one baby to the next.

For the first three weeks give 90ml (3oz) every three hours or so. From three to six weeks you can increase this to 120ml (4oz) every three hours. Between six and twelve weeks give 120ml to 180ml (4 to 6oz) every four hours. After three months you would usually be giving 240ml (8oz) every four hours. As a rough rule of thumb a baby under the age of six months should be consuming approximately 150-200ml of formula for each kilo of their body weight i.e. a 5kg baby should be consuming roughly 750-1000ml of formula in each 24 hour period. Don't be concerned if your baby takes a little more or little less at each feed or each day, or if your feeding patterns are different to other mothers, so long as weight gain is good.

For both breast and bottle feeding, you can usually be sure that your baby is getting enough milk if he or she has plenty of wet nappies each day and is growing well (your health visitor will provide you with a chart to help you monitor their weight gain).

How Long Will It Take My Baby To Feed?

As babies grow and become more efficient eaters, they take less time to feed. The approximate time it takes the average baby to feed is described below and can be used as a guide to help you know what to expect.

Between four and eight weeks of age, a baby might take up to forty minutes to feed taking anywhere between 2 -5oz. Between eight and twelve weeks, your baby might take up to thirty minutes taking 4-6 oz. From around twelve weeks your baby could take as little as twenty minutes to feed taking 5-8 oz. Of course, all babies are different, some babies are much slower and others surprisingly fast. Provided their weight is gaining as it ought to, and they are having plenty of wet and dirty nappies then you should take your baby's lead on both frequency and duration of feeds.

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This internet site provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns about your own health or the health of your child, you should always consult a doctor or other healthcare professional.