Amount of Formula Feedings

Question of the Week

Father carrying baby son (7-9 months) while preparing milk in kitchen
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Q. I have a three-month-old son who is now formula fed and I am wondering if you can tell me how much and how often he should be eating. I posed this question to a nurse at my local health unit and she gave me such a huge range that it wasn't very helpful (25 to 42oz!). I would like to encourage my some to start sleeping through the night and wonder how I get all the required calories into his daytime feedings. When is a reasonable time to give him the last feeding of the night? Lara, Sudbury, Ontario

A. The reason that you got kind of a vague answer is that there is no specific amount of formula that all babies should be eating each day. While some infants may be eating just 24 ounces a day, others may need 32 ounces or more.

Rules of Formula Feeding

A good rule of thumb is that the average baby at this age is likely to drink about 5 to 6 ounces of formula every 3 to 5 hours.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, in the book Your Baby's First Year, also provides a nice guideline and suggests that 'on average, your baby should take in about 2 1/2 ounces of formula a day for every pound of body weight.' So for an average 3 month old baby boy who weighs 13 pounds, that would be about 32 1/2 ounces a day.

The AAP also states that 'most babies are satisfied with 3 to 4 ounces per feeding during the first month, and increase that amount by 1 ounce per month until reaching 8 ounces.'

Keep in mind that these are still averages though, and some babies require more or less formula at each feeding and on each day.

If your baby seems satisfied between feedings and is gaining weight normally, then he is likely eating enough.

If your baby is consistently eating more or less than these averages though, you might see your pediatrician and make sure that you are recognizing your baby's hunger signals and that he is gaining weight normally.

Sleeping Through the Night

As to when he is going to have his last feeding of the night, that is going to depend on your baby too. While some infants are already sleeping through the night by 3 months, others still need at least one feeding. If your baby is waking up and you aren't sure if he is really hungry, you can try to settle him down and put him back to bed and see what happens. If he won't go back to bed until he is fed or quickly wakes up again, then you likely need to continue with middle of the night feedings for a few more weeks or months.

Keep in mind that many people believe that reaching the milestone of sleeping through the night is more a developmental thing, and not necessarily related to hunger. That is why feeding cereal at bedtime often doesn't help a baby sleep longer.

What To Know About Feeding Your Baby

In addition to these tips, other things to know about feeding your baby formula include that:

  • You should never warm up your baby's formula bottles in a microwave oven.
  • Don't make the switch to whole milk until your infant is at least 12 months old.
  • Because of the risk of fluorosis, or getting too much fluoride, which can lead to tooth staining, the American Dental Association (ADA) has advised that parents limit the amount of fluoridated water that infants under age 12 months get. So instead of using fluoridated tap water or bottled water with fluoride, the ADA recommends mixing formula with fluoride-free bottled water. Still, by the time they are 6 months old, babies begin to need some fluoride for healthy teeth.

And don't start solid foods until your baby is at least four to six months old.

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report. Diagnosis and Prevention of Iron Deficiency and Iron-Deficiency Anemia in Infant and Young Children. Pediatrics. November 2010, VOLUME 126 / ISSUE 5.

ADA. Infants, Formula and Fluoride. Nov. 9, 2006.

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