Learn how much formula to feed the littlest member of the family, and how often he should receive a bottle.

By Nicole Harris
Updated: January 16, 2019
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​The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life, if possible. But many parents opt for formula feeding instead, either because of medical reasons or personal preference. ”Commercially available iron-fortified infant formulas are the safest and most effective alternatives to breast milk,” says Amy Lynn Stockhausen, M.D., an associate professor of general pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Read on to learn how much formula to feed to a newborn, with tips on recognizing the signs of hunger and fullness.

How Much Formula to Feed a Newborn

Every baby requires a different amount of formula depending on age, body weight, and appetite. Dr. Stockhausen gives a generic guideline: “Babies need 2.5 ounces of formula a day for every pound of body weight,” she says. In the first weeks of life, this is usually divided up into six-eight feedings, which happen every two-four hours throughout the day. “So, on average, an 8-pound baby would eat two or three ounces about every three hours,” explains Dr. Stockhausen.

Your baby’s formula intake correlates with his weight, so you’ll gradually begin adding more formula to his diet. He’ll also require less frequent feedings as he grows. For the first few months of life, aim to feed every three or four hours, depending on Baby’s hunger cues. By six months, he’ll probably consume about six or eight ounces every five-six hours, assuming he didn’t start solids yet. The American Academy of Pediatrics says you shouldn’t feed your baby more than 32 ounces of formula per day.

Signs Your Baby is Hungry

The guidelines above aren’t set in stone, and your infant’s formula needs may vary daily. That’s why Dr. Stockhausen recommends learning your baby’s hunger signals. “If a baby is born full-term at a healthy weight, it’s best to practice ‘on cue’ or responsive feeding,” she says. “Learning a baby’s hunger signals helps both parents and Baby realize and understand his individual needs.”

Here are some signs that Baby is hungry, according to Dr. Stockhausen:

  • Moving his hands to his mouth

  • Rooting (turning his head toward anything that touches his cheek)

  • Making sucking noises or licking lips

  • Flexing his arms with clenched fists over his chest or tummy

  • Crying (in the later stages of hunger)

Moving his hands to his mouth

Rooting (turning his head toward anything that touches his cheek)

Making sucking noises or licking lips

Flexing his arms with clenched fists over his chest or tummy

Crying (in the later stages of hunger)

Signs of Overfeeding

Without knowing their baby’s cues, well-meaning parents can overfeed an infant. This may lead to excess weight gain.

Dr. Stockhausen shares some signs that your baby has had enough formula:

  • Becoming fidgety or easily distracted while feeding

  • Pushing the nipple out of his mouth

  • Letting formula dribble out of his mouth

  • Turning away from the bottle

Becoming fidgety or easily distracted while feeding

Pushing the nipple out of his mouth

Letting formula dribble out of his mouth

Turning away from the bottle

“If he spits up a moderate to large amount after feedings, or if he seems to have a tummy ache after feedings, he may be eating too much,” Dr. Stockhausen adds. Try reducing feeding by about an ounce. If this doesn’t solve the issue, or if baby often has heavy spit-up or stomach aches, check with your pediatrician.

Your newborn doesn’t need to finish all of the formula in his bottle. Let him can decide on his own formula intake, and remember that it might vary between days. “As long as a 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,” assures Dr. Stockhausen.

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