How Much Should My Baby Eat?
As parents, we want nothing more than to know that our baby is healthy. Often that means wanting to know that our baby is ‘normal' and that they conform to what is expected of them at any given age.
We want to make sure that our baby learns to speak at the right time. We want to make sure they learn to walk at the right time. And we want to find out if any unusual symptoms or behaviors may be a cause for concern.
One of the questions you see most often for this reason is: how much should a baby eat? Maybe you're worried that your baby isn't eating enough and this has you concerned that they may have a stomach upset that is ruining their appetite?
Or maybe you're worried that they seem to be overeating and that they aren't being satisfied for whatever reason? Or perhaps that their voracious appetite is going to lead to weight gain?
In this article, we will attempt to answer the question: how much should your baby eat. And we'll look for possible reasons why your baby might be eating what seems like an awful lot, or perhaps not very much at all. Don't worry – in most cases, there is no cause for concern!
Eating at Different Ages
Babies grow a lot and that means they need a lot of food and sustenance to help them get to that point.
A baby will double in size several times before it reaches adulthood and all that extra skin, tissue and bone is created by nothing other than all the food that the baby is getting from the mother.
That milk contains proteins, which the baby uses to build its own tissue. It contains minerals and vitamins which it uses to create digestive enzymes and neurochemicals.
So of course, it follows that a baby can need what seems like a lot of milk or formula as it is growing. And of course, it also makes a lot of sense that your baby's needs will change as it grows.
A baby that is half the size of another baby will need different amounts to eat. However, this number is also going to be affected by the fact that the baby is growing and the rate at which it is doing so.
This means that a very small baby that is growing very rapidly may in fact need more food than a very large baby that is effectively done with its growth spurt.
Here then are some averages for what you can expect your baby to eat at different points in its life.
How Much Does a Newborn Eat?
A newborn baby will consume 1.5-3 ounces of milk in one sitting. That is 45-90 milliliters. This baby is likely to need to drink roughly once every 2-3 hours. You may notice the amount gradually increase as your baby starts to grow. Of course, the size of your baby is likely to determine just how much they need.
How Much Does a 1-3 Month Old Eat?
At 1-3 months old your baby will likely be taking significantly more milk. In all likelihood, your child is going to be drinking around 4-5 ounces every feeding, though they will need to feed a little less frequently – probably around every 3-4 hours.
How Much Does a 4-6 Month Old Eat?
4-6 months and your baby may have slowed down slightly regarding the increasing amounts it needs to drink. It may be drinking around 4-6 ounces, which you may notice isn't all that different from the past two months. The frequency may vary however and this will determine just how much they drink in each sitting.
How Much Does a 7-9 Month Old Eat?
At 7-9 months old, your baby is now likely to be taking more again – around 6-8 ounces. The smallest newborn might have been drinking 400% less compared with this point. That just goes to show how incredibly quickly your baby is growing and changing!
How Much Does a 9-12 Month Old Eat?
After the nine-month mark, your baby will be starting a new eating cycle as a toddler. You'll be feeding around four times a day, with a total of around 32 ounces by the end of those four feedings. You should feed cereals, crackers and other solids, as well as fruits and veggies, meat or poultry, as long as it is finely chopped and mixed with yogurt or anything liquid.
What if Your Baby Is Eating More or Less?
What if your baby doesn't fall within these averages though? What if they seem to be eating a lot more or a lot less than is expected at their age?
Well, once again you shouldn't worry. If your baby seems to be eating an awful lot, then the most common explanation is simply that they are going through a growth spurt. As they rapidly grow, they need more materials to build that new tissue.
The saying goes that you ‘are what you eat.' This is certainly very true of a young baby! Protein in milk is created in your body when you eat meat. Your system is breaking down the carbon and then recombining it into a form that your child can use. The baby then reconstitutes that material to create its own bones and organs.
If you think your baby may be going through a growth spurt, then keep in mind that there are certain periods during which this is even more highly likely. Babies tend to grow when they are:
During these times, they will start to become hungrier and you'll need to fuel that change!
The key here is to follow your baby's cues and to try and be ready for them when they need you!
Then again, you might wonder if your baby is perhaps not eating enough. Babies aren't meant to shrink, so what happens if they start to want less and less food?
You might worry that they have something wrong with their stomach, or that they aren't going to be getting enough nutrients to help them build that tissue.
The easiest way to put this concern to bed is to have your baby checked by the doctor. Take them to your GP and they'll be able to run some check-ups that will include measuring their weight, height and more.
They'll let you know whether they are growing at the right rate and this will be a far more useful way to find out rather than second guessing and worrying!
Likewise, another trick is to check your baby's diapers. You should expect to see about six wet and four ‘dirty' soiled diapers every day. That's a lot, which is simply because your baby is turning over an awful lot of sustenance and therefore creating a far amount of waste by-product!
Inspecting poop isn't anyone's idea of fun, but this is one of our privileged roles as parents. You can also tell a lot by looking at the consistency of the stool. If your newborn has a thick and tarry creation, then this is normal from the very start.
As they get older, it may start to become a little more yellow or green. Those babies that are fed formula will often have slightly firmer and less seedy looking stool as compared with those babies that are breast fed.
If your baby's stool is remarkably different from what was just described, then it's possible that your baby might be missing an important nutrient or that they are getting too much or not enough food.
Wet diapers meanwhile will often be very clear or very pale. This shows that your baby is well-hydrated and that as such, their urine is heavily diluted. However, if orange crystals should form in the urine, then this can be a sign that your baby isn't getting enough fluid or that they're otherwise dehydrated.
How can you be hydrated while still getting enough hydration you ask? Well, that can come down to having a temperature or suffering from diarrhea for instance. Most often though, this might be a sign that your baby is not getting enough fluid.
You can also look for other signs of underfeeding, which might include:
- 1Not gaining weight
- 2Seeming unsatisfied after eating
Signs of overfeeding meanwhile can include colic, wind and hiccups, which often happen as a result of your baby gulping food down. This can be a parent-led behavior, but it might also be that the baby isn't satisfied.
In this latter case, there are numerous potential causes, but this might point to a more serious condition in some rare instances.
For instance, your baby might have a case of pica – which is a condition where they aren't getting enough of a specific nutrient and as such, their body tells them to keep eating to try and replace that.
Another possibility is that your baby has a digestive disorder, which might prevent them from properly absorbing food.
They might be losing weight and yet eating a lot.
If you notice these signs, then once again, the best thing to do is to have your baby checked over by your physician.
How to Know When Your Baby is Hungry
Unless your baby is unwell, the best practice for the most part is to let them lead regarding when it's time to feed and how much they need. Their bodies will tell them when they need more milk or formula and this is your best indication as to how to proceed.
Of course though, a baby can't tell you they're hungry, so how do you know to feed them? How do you know when they've had enough and it's time to stop?
One option is to wait until the baby starts crying and to go through the process of elimination. Are they uncomfortable? Do they need the toilet? Nope… then they probably are hungry.
That said, contrary to popular belief, crying is a late sign of hunger. That means that you can look out for earlier signs and hopefully prevent them from going through that phase. When was the last time you were so hungry you cried?
So, look out for some of these signs instead:
If your baby is crying, it can be hard to get them to calm down, thus making feeding more difficult. Not only that, but it becomes more likely that they might gulp or gasp and this can cause them to get trapped wind.
And of course they might cry for entirely different reasons! They may cry simply because they need a cuddle, or because they need you to change them. Other causes include being too hot, too cold or needing a nappy change!
As you can see then, the amount your baby should be consuming should be fairly consistent but with that said, it's likely that they it will vary both as they get older and in response to a whole variety of things.
Therefore, if your baby is drinking more or less than other babies you know, or if they seem to be drinking a little more or less than you expected then there is no reason to be concerned.
Finally, make sure that you are following your baby's lead when it comes to how much they should eat. Let them guide you, look out for signs and listen to them. They are the ones growing and their bodies will tell them – and you – whether they should be eating or not.
Don't worry, if your baby needs to eat more, then they will eventually let you know!
If you want to be as sure as possible, then you should take your baby for regular check-ups with your doctor. That way, you'll get an early warning if anything is less than perfect! It's always good to check, but don't worry: babies are surprisingly hardy creatures.