How to Calculate How Much Milk Your Baby Must Drink

By Shelley Frost
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Dirty diapers, car seat installation, nutrition -- that squishy bundle of joy comes with some serious concerns for new parents. Your baby can't ask for a bottle when he's hungry, so you'll need to rely on nutrition guidelines and signs from him to know if he's eating enough. Although the general guidelines give you a place to start, all babies are different, so ask your doctor about any feeding problems or concerns.

Breastfeeding Amounts

Calculating how much milk your baby needs and consumes is a challenge when nursing since the milk goes directly from your breast into your baby's body; there's no way to measure the exact number of ounces consumed. Your baby's nursing habits further complicate the calculations. Some babies nurse quickly, maintaining a steady milk flow with strong suction. Other babies take their time while nursing and may eat over a longer period of time. The number of times your infant nurses can help you determine if she eats enough. Newborns generally nurse eight to 12 times daily, according to Kids Health. She may eat every 1 1/2 to 3 hours. Don't let your newborn go more than four hours without eating -- this can lead to dehydration. This is particularly true for preemies, who have difficulty regulating water balance in the body. Talk to your doctor to determine whether you should wake a baby who sleeps through feeding times. Around 1 to 2 months, expect her to space out her feedings for a total of seven to nine daily feedings.

Formula Amounts

Bottle feeding allows you calculate exactly how much formula you offer your baby and how much he actually eats. A general rule of thumb is 2 1/2 ounces per pound for the day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics' Healthy Children website. A 10-pound baby would need approximately 25 ounces per day, for example. Newborns generally need 2 to 3 ounces at each feeding, with about three to four hours between feedings. By 1 month old, babies typically eat 4 ounces or more with four hours between feedings. At 6 months, babies may eat 6 to 8 ounces per bottle four or five times a day. Premature babies may need special formula with increased fat and protein content or supplements to ensure proper nutrition. The hospital staff works closely with parents when a preemie goes home to establish feeding schedules and amounts based on the baby's specific weight and health needs.

Signs of Fullness

Your baby's signs of hunger and fullness are immediate indicators of when and how much she eats. Since babies vary in their eating habits and nutritional requirements, learning your baby's indicators helps ensure proper nutrition. She lets you know she's hungry by smacking her lips and rooting toward your body as you hold her. Don't wait until she fusses to feed her. Watch as she eats for signs she is full. She may pull away from the breast or bottle, slow her eating, start fidgeting or get distracted. She also lets you know if she's not done eating by continuing to smack her lips or act hungry after she finishes the bottle. If she doesn't go at least one to three hours before acting hungry again, she may need more to eat at each feeding.

Indicators of Feeding Success

Other indicators also let you know if your baby is eating enough. Weight loss during the first few days is common, but your baby shouldn't lose more than 7 percent of her body weight before she starts gaining again if she's getting enough nutrition, according to the Health Children website. During the first two days of life, babies have thick, black stools -- one or two per day. On days three and four, babies should have at least two bowel movements with a yellow or green color. By week one, she should also have at least three to four bowel movements daily. Newborns should have at least six wet diapers daily by about 1 week old. Your baby should continue gaining weight, sleep well and stay alert during waking hours, according to Kids Health.

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