When you’re a new mom, it’s hard to know how much breast milk does your baby need if you are bottle feeding.
It can be really frustrating when you don’t have enough breast milk for bottle feeding, and it can also be stressful if the baby gets too full or not full enough.
This article will help you understand what cues your breastfed baby gives off so that they don’t get an upset stomach. It will also show you how much breast milk is needed for bottle feeding as well as helpful tips on having extra bottles on hand in case of emergencies. We hope this information helps make things easier!
How Much Milk Do Breastfed Babies Need?
If you will be away from your baby for an extended period of time and you aren’t sure about how much breast milk you need to have stored away there is a normal range for breastfed babies 1-6 months of age. Studies have shown that after the first month, your baby’s milk intake stays about the same with the exception of growth spurts. On an average 24-hour period your baby will consume about 19-30 ounces of breast milk or infant formula a day. The average is 24 ounces.
Surprisingly, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends about the same amount of formula for formula-fed babies to consume. There is a small range on how much a bottle of formula your baby needs depending on your baby’s age. For a 1-month-old baby, they recommend 24 ounces a day and for a 6-month-old baby, it is 24-32 ounces a day.
Ways to Estimating Milk Intake
To estimate the amount of breast milk your baby will need you will have to divide the number of feedings they will have in a 24-hour period. So if your baby is nursing 8 times in a 24-hour period, you will divide 24 by 8 to get about 3 ounces of milk per feeding. This gives you an estimate but you can round up to be safe if you would like.
An important thing is to not skip a pumping session with your breast pump to keep your milk production up and maintain your breast milk supply once you start to use a combination feeding routine.
What if My Baby is Eating Solid Foods?
If your baby has just started eating solid foods then it shouldn’t affect the amount of breast milk they will intake. For the first year of life, breast milk is still the main source of nutrition for your baby. The amount of breast milk that they will consume in a day will slowly decrease as they consume more solid foods. The average 24-month-old intakes about 10 ounces a day.
Related article: Best Breastfeeding and Solids Schedule for 6-Month-Old Babies
Can You Overfeed Breast Milk in a Bottle?
It’s important to follow your baby’s cues instead of just encouraging them to finish a bottle. Babies eat different amounts of milk for each feeding. Some may just take a small amount as a couple of ounces while some will eat more. In either case, you should never force your baby to finish a bottle if they don’t want it. If you have been giving them too much milk in each feeding, they will tell you by spitting up or acting uncomfortable after a feeding.
Ways to prevent overfeeding:
Use a slow flow nipple
Using a slow flow bottle nipple will help change the flow of milk and pace your baby and replicate a similar flow as breastfeeding. This will stop them before they are too full.
Some may feel the urge to feed your baby more when they are eating much during one feeding. Feed them in two separate sessions instead of a cluster feeding. This will help pace their intake.
Pace bottle feed
When you bottle-feed your baby, it’s helpful to pace your baby’s feeding so it’s not a constant flow. This is closer to the flow of breastfeeding and will also help you to do both and avoid nipple confusion.
Use a pacifier
Babies have a need to suck and some have a higher need than others. This can be mistaken for hunger sometimes. Your baby could have a higher need to suck for comfort especially if mom is away. Try using a pacifier if they have already eaten and need some comfort.
How Much Breast Milk is a Full Feed?
This can range quite a bit depending on the age of your baby. It can also depend on if they are going through a growth spurt. Do the calculation above (24 ounces divided by the number of times your baby feeds per day) and then read your baby’s cues from there to see if they are still hungry or if they just need comfort.
How Many Bottles Do You Need if You Breastfeed and Bottle Feed?
This can range on how often you plan to breastfeed and bottle feed per day. If you plan to bottle feed for 4 – 6 feeds during the work day, then plan on having about 2 more as a backup. This way you will always have a backup if one is lost or broken or one needs to be cleaned.
Related article: Best Bottles for Breastfed Babies Who Refuse a Bottle
How Do You Know When They are Full?
When you feed your baby, their body will naturally let you know when they are full. If they stop sucking, start to fall asleep, and become uninterested in the bottle then they have had enough for now. It’s important to watch their cues as some babies do not take a very long time to eat while others can take a longer time.
For fullness cues, you can also look at their hands. If their hands are open and relaxed then it can be a good indication that they are full. If their hands are tightly clenched and they are sucking on their hand, these are signs of hunger and then they still need more.
Is My Baby Drinking Too Much or Not Enough Expressed Milk?
If your baby is drinking significantly more than the average, it could be going through a growth spurt. Babies usually eat a larger amount of milk in the morning and then cluster feeds in the evening to stay full longer when your baby sleeps at night. Just use a slower flow nipple and pace bottle feed to see if they are full sooner and just have a higher need to suck.
If your baby is drinking significantly less while you are gone but is drinking more when you are home, then they might be waiting until you are home to eat. As long as they are gaining the proper amount of weight and they are soiling an adequate amount of diapers, then this is normal. If they do not have proper weight gaining or you are concerned, then it would be a good idea to seek a lactation consultant or your healthcare provider.
Related article: 9 Best Breastfeeding Tips on Producing More Milk
Bottle-feeding a baby is different from breastfeeding and requires a little more thought. For example, it’s important to pace the flow of your baby’s feeding so that they don’t get too much or not enough milk in one sitting. It can also be helpful to have an extra bottle on standby for when you are at work or away from home given how quickly these things can break or wear out. Understanding your baby’s hunger cues and when they are full so that you know when they’ve had enough will help prevent overfeeding as well as teach them healthy habits early on.
Be sure to read the Best Lactation Supplements to Boost Your Supply