How much formula does your baby need?

I remember bringing my baby home after her birth and although I initially did breastfeed for the first few weeks, I felt my baby was just not happy and needed something extra to settle her. So, I would give her a bit of boob and then supplement with formula, until we moved completely over to formula.

I made the choice to introduce formula for the wellbeing of my baby and was not prepared to allow society to dictate what they thought was best for my baby and me. During those early days, it was very overwhelming being a new mommy, so under the guidance of my mother I sent my husband out to the stores to buy infant formula. He returned home after two hours with not two or three different types of formula, but eight!

I made the bottle according to instructions and fed my gorgeous, but famished, little one – she took about 5ml (I used Novalac) and continued to scream for a good 20 minutes until she fell asleep. Why did she not drink more? Was she still hungry? Then I started to stress about how much she should have. She was so little, but I wanted to make sure she got enough. I rushed around trying to find the baby book I knew I’d put somewhere and when I couldn’t find it, I phoned my sister and mother in absolute tears.

The lessons I learned

Don’t panic! It took me a long time but, I soon realised that my baby regulated her intake from day to day to meet her specific needs. Instead of going by fixed amounts and what friends said I should be feeding her, I learnt to relax and just let her tell me when she had had enough. I also realised that when she became fidgety or easily distracted during a feeding, she was finished. Sometimes she would guzzle the bottle but still continued to smack her lips and I quickly realised she was still hungry. In the words of my midwife and paed: “As long as she is content and thriving”.

“The most important thing to remember, whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed, is that your baby’s feeding needs are unique.”

The most important thing to remember, whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed, is that your baby’s feeding needs are unique. No book or formula tin can tell you precisely how much or how often they need to be fed or exactly how you should handle your baby during feedings. You will discover these things for yourself as you and your baby get to know each other. After I got over my initial stress, I did a bit of digging and found the following:

  • If you are formula feeding, your little one will usually take between 15ml and 30 ml of formula per feeding and will feed every three to four hours on average during the first few weeks. Breastfed infants usually take smaller, more frequent feedings than formula-fed infants, so don’t panic when they stop or fall asleep.
  • Some people say that if your baby is formula-fed they will no longer need a middle-of-the-night feeding between the ages of four and six months. To be honest, my baby was 19 months at the time I wrote this and she still woke up for a bottle in the night – so don’t stress if your baby doesn’t sleep through. However, after about eight months your baby’s stomach capacity has increased which means she may go longer between daytime feedings (occasionally up to four or five hours at a time).
  • If you’re worried that your baby still seems to feed very frequently or consume larger amounts and is not gaining any weight then, look at the situation on merit and a trip to the midwife/paed may be a good idea. Sometimes babies just want to feed not because they are hungry, but because they just want the opportunity to be what I call “nunu-ed” (comforted/embraced) by you. There is nothing wrong with this.
  • I came across a formula to use as a guideline in the brilliant book Baby Sense by Anne Richardson and Megan: 150ml of milk per kilogram of baby’s body weight divided by the number of feeds you are giving in 24 hours. For example:

If your baby is 5kg and you feed them 6 times in 24 hours, 5 x 150 = 750ml divided by 6 = 125ml per feed.

Stop stressing!

Take what all the other mommies say with a pinch of salt and don’t get so caught up in what you think you should be doing that you miss the opportunity to savour the moments. They grow so quickly and will tell you what they need. The way you feed your baby in their first year teaches them some important lessons.

  • Your child learns to trust those who provide the comfort and security of food, which will help in forming a tight bond with you.
  • Feeding times should be relaxing, comforting and enjoyable for both you and your baby. They give the most opportunities to show your love and to get to know each other.
  • Before the fourth month, milk – whether it is breast milk or infant formula – is the only food that your baby needs to grow healthy.
  • Feeding should be a calm, smooth and uninterrupted process. It shouldn’t hurt nor be a pain in the neck. If you’re calm and happy, your infant will respond in kind. If you are nervous or uninterested, they may pick up on these negative feelings and a feeding problem can result.

I always say that I feel completely honoured that I am called for in the middle of the night and that I am able to give such pleasure, comfort and sustenance to a little life that is so dependent on me. As hard as it is to do at times, don’t begrudge this time; rather savour it.

Disclaimer: This post is based on personal experience and personal brand preference of the content author and has in no way been paid for or sponsored. BabyYumYum reserves the right to its opinions and fully supports the notion of promotion that breast is best in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) infant feeding guidelines http://www.who.int/topics/infant_nutrition/en/. Breast milk is the best food for infants. Good maternal nutrition is essential to prepare and maintain breastfeeding. If breastfeeding is not applied, an infant formula may be used according to the advice of healthcare professionals. Preparation and storage of any infant formula should be performed as directed on the tin in order not to pose any health hazards.

Also read:

Can you use bottled water to mix baby formula?
Breaking the silence around formula feeding