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How Much Milk Does a Baby Need?

July 17, 2012

Is there some magic way to determine how much milk your baby needs when it’s nursing? Is it the same for a baby who is drinking formula? It’s a question that many new parents ask to ensure that their baby is getting enough nutrition.  Sara Chana Silverstein, a New York based, international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC), classical homeopath, herbalist, lecturer, author, wife and mother of seven children (yes, she really is superwoman!), wrote an article for us that tackles the issue.

Do nursing babies need to drink the same amount at each feed just like formula babies do?

When a baby is nursing, rather than being bottle-fed, the baby will take in a different amount of liquid at each feed.  In a twenty-four hour period, a baby needs to take in a certain amount of total ounces and a certain amount of total calories in order to thrive, but a nursing baby will take in a different amount of milk at each individual feed, depending on the infant’s hunger and mood.

When an infant is bottle fed, the caregiver will pour the exact amount of formula into a bottle at each feed and expect the baby to drink the entire poured amount.  Even if the child turns his head a way, the caregiver will do her best to try to “force” the child to eat the amount in the bottle.  With nursing, the mother’s body does not display “ounces”; so the typical, healthy baby is allowed to take in whatever amount he wants and needs.  (Babies that are premature or have a suckling disorder will need to have a different protocol to insure that they receive enough milk at each feed.)

So for example, a six week old baby might take in 2.4 ounces at one feed, 3 ounces at the next feed and only 1.8 ounces during the following feed.

So, how do we know if this baby has taken in that ‘certain amount of total ounces and a certain amount of total calories in order to thrive’, that was mentioned earlier?

As a general rule, the thing to remember is, “what goes in must come out”;  therefore, looking for a content baby and by counting the amount of soiled diapers her baby is producing, a nursing mother can gauge how their nursing is going.  As long as the baby is producing six to eight wet and dirty diapers in a twenty-four hour period, the nursing mother can stop worrying about “how much the baby is getting” and, with confidence, focus instead on her baby’s happiness (be sure to occasionally monitor periodic growth on a competent digital scale).

Other articles by Sara:

Sara Chana Silverstein
is a Brooklyn-based, international board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC), classical homeopath, herbalist, businesswoman, wife and mother of seven children. She has helped over 5,000 babies breastfeed and treats chronic ear infections, and other childhood ailments. She is a highly sought-after public speaker, presenting an array of topics in an intelligent, compelling, funny, provocative, and exciting way.