How Much Formula Should a Newborn Eat?

Guidelines can help take the guessing out of feeding your little one

Mother bottle feeding baby at home.

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How much should a newborn eat? Figuring out the answer to this common question can be a little confusing. As a new parent, you may be worried if you're feeding your little one too much or too little. 

While there's no exact science when it comes to how much a newborn should eat, there is a simple mathematical equation to get a rough estimate of how many ounces your baby needs each day.

Newborn Signs of Hunger and Fullness

Before you crunch numbers, however, your best bet is to tune into your baby's hunger cues and fullness cues.

Hunger cues include:

  • Crying or fussiness
  • Sucking on fingers or placing fist in mouth
  • Smacking of lips or making small sounds with his mouth
  • Opening of his mouth when touched on his chin or lips

Fullness cues include:

  • Stopping feeding or only taking a few sucks before pausing
  • Slowing down or falling asleep
  • Spitting out formula
  • Fidgeting or acting distracted

The Formula for Calculating Formula

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, on average, your baby should consume about 2.5 ounces of formula a day for every pound of body weight. Most babies are satisfied with 3 to 4 ounces per feeding in the first month, increasing that amount by 1 ounce per month before leveling off at about 7 to 8 ounces per feeding.

For example, a 12-pound baby would likely need 30 ounces in a 24-hour period. To determine how many ounces per bottle, divide those amounts by the number of feedings your baby takes per day. In this example, if your baby is taking six bottles in 24 hours, he would need approximately 5-ounce bottles.

This equation can be used regardless of what type of infant formula you use (cow milk formula, soy-based formula, etc).

Baby Weight in Pounds

Ounces of Formula per Day

4 lbs.

10 oz.

5

12.5

6

15

7

17.5

8

20

9

22.5

10

25

11

27.5

12

30

13

32.5

14

35

15

37.5

Ounces of Formula by Age

Another way to estimate formula amounts can be done by age.

  • Newborns: 2 to 3 ounces per feeding
  • One month: 4 ounces per feeding
  • Two months: 4 to 5 ounces per feeding
  • Four months: 4 to 6 ounces per feeding
  • Six months: 6 to 8 ounces per feeding

Overfeeding or Underfeeding

Signs that you are not feeding your baby enough may include persistent crying, decreased urine output, a wrinkly look to the skin, a dry roof of the mouth and increased sleep.

Conversely, signs that you might be overfeeding may include spitting up or vomiting, crying, pulling up legs to the abdomen, and behaviors that resemble colic.

Generally speaking, timing feedings so that your baby has bottles that contain lesser amounts of formula more frequently is better than giving larger quantities of formula less often. And, of course, consult your pediatrician if you're concerned that your baby is losing weight or gaining too rapidly.

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Article Sources

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  1. Shelov SP, Altmann TR, Hannermann RE, eds. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child, Birth to Age 5, 6th Edition. American Academy of Pediatrics; 2014.

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