How Much Formula Should a 9-Month-Old Drink?

By Sharon Secor
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There are a number of factors influencing the amount of formula a 9-month-old should drink. By the time the average baby is 9 months old, he's eating a variety of foods and drinking some juice daily, in addition to formula. Height, weight and activity level also affect the amount of formula that is right for him daily. Many parents worry about their 9-month-old not drinking enough formula, but it is also important to avoid giving too much, ensuring a well-balanced diet and a healthy weight.

A Guideline, Not a Prescription

An analysis of evidence connecting formula feeding to higher obesity risks in children, published in “Advances in Pediatrics," raised an important point. There is a significant difference between breastfeeding and bottle feeding, and that difference is who controls the baby's intake, according to researcher Ian M. Paul, M.D., et al. At the breast, the baby does, nursing until he feels satisfied. With the bottle, however, there is a tendency for the caretaker to decide when the baby is finished, often coaxing that last bit in the bottle down. Allowing a baby to develop and listen to his own sense of satiety may offer long-term protection against obesity and could even be a major factor in why breastfed babies tend to be leaner. Formula feeding tables offering specific amounts at certain ages are designed for the average baby, whereas your own baby may need more or less. Such recommendations are meant to serve as guidelines, not as prescriptions.

In the Context of the Daily Diet

Upon entering the ninth month, it is fairly standard to begin to offer a baby formula after food, instead of before. That is because the feeding focus is changing. Solid foods are starting to take their position as the primary means of sustenance. Babies typically eat cereals, fruits, vegetables, meats and some finger foods. They also drink a little juice each day at this age. They still are not eating enough food to meet their daily nutritional needs -- and meeting those needs is vital for physical growth and cognitive development -- so formula still holds an important dietary role for the next few months. The general recommendation is 30 to 32 ounces a day, offered after food, according to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. There's no need to coax him to finish his formula after eating if he's had his fill, adds the American Heart Association.

The "Getting Enough" Worry

Parents often coax down those last few bites or sips because they worry about a baby getting enough. It's a natural, legitimate worry. Proper nutrition is essential to proper development. However, with a generally healthy baby, set worrying aside and just observe your baby. If he isn't drinking enough formula, when you change his diaper, the urine will be darker and smell stronger. The average 9-month-old boy needs 746 calories a day and the average 9-month-old girl needs 678, according to the USDA. And, those should be nourishing calories, not processed or junk food calories. Growth slows at this age. A 13-ounce increase is typical heading into the 10th month, says Ohio State University. If your baby isn't growing as he should, is losing weight he shouldn't, or has less energy than usual, see your doctor and review his diet.

Healthy Habits From The Start

One way that some babies end up drinking far more formula than they should is when they're given a bottle for comfort, rather than hunger. The Mayo Clinic warns against this practice. It's not a good idea for long-term health to establish that pattern of using food to satisfy an emotional need. Instead, the Mayo Clinic suggests trying other ways of comforting the baby, such as a few minutes in the rocking chair. As a parent, you have a wonderful opportunity to shape your baby's relationship to food and what tastes good to him. Use whole foods and fresh produce as much as possible, avoiding chemical-laden, over-processed foods and junk foods. Your baby's diet will be more nutritious and he'll develop a taste for real food that can help protect his health throughout his life.

About the Author

Sharon Secor began writing professionally in 1999, while attending Empire State University. Secor specializes primarily in personal finance and economics, and writes on a broad range of subjects. She is published in numerous online and print publications, including Freedom's Phoenix, the ObscentiyCrimes and the American Chronicle.