Friday, July 23, 2010

How much breastmilk should I put in each bottle?

If you're nursing baby full time (no bottles of expressed milk or other supplements), you generally don't know and don't have to worry about how many ounces of milk your baby is getting in a day.  As long as baby is gaining well and having plenty of wet and dirty diapers, all is well!

When it comes to prepping bottles of expressed milk, the biggest question is always 'How much do I need to send?'  There are charts out there that will give you a break down, but generally these are complete and utter C.R.A.P. for your baby - don't give them a second look!  Why?  Because, they're based on the average needs of a formula fed baby, not a breastfed baby.  I've said it before, but it bears repeating:

This doesn't mean that the amount of milk you put in your baby's bottle will never change - it probably will - but it's not going to go up drastically from 3 to 6 to 10oz. of milk.  What will often happen is this - baby will start out at 2-3mo drinking about 2oz every 1.5 to 2 hours gradually increasing such that by 6 months she may be drinking 3.5-4oz, every  2.5 to 3.5 hours and generally hold steady thereafter.  If baby is at daycare for 8 hours a day, her schedule may start out as 5 - 2oz. bottles (10oz/day) and end up as 3 - 4oz bottles (12oz per day).  Not a huge change, right?

The numbers I've given are approximate but based on the amounts that all 3 of my exclusively breastfed babies would drink each day.  So, how do you decide how much to send in those bottles?  You want baby to have enough, but don't want to waste precious milk, right?  Start with the fact that the average breastfed baby consumes between 19 and 30oz of milk a day, with 25oz per 24hrs as the generally accepted average.  Now count up the approximate number of times that baby feeds during the day, and divide that into the first number.  For example, a baby nursing 8 times a day will be getting an average of 3oz per feed (25 ounces a day/8 feeds a day = 3.1 ounces per feed) - so that's a starting place for you to work with.  For a great calculator that you can play around with, see here.

As baby starts to go longer between feeds or starts to feed less often during the night, the average amount per feeding will need to be increased somewhat.  For example, my youngest child (now 6 months old) is also my best nighttime sleeper, averaging only one feed per night (compared with 2-3 for her older siblings as infants), and so she takes in larger bottles than they ever did - but those bottles are still only about 4 - 4.5oz each.  Many exclusively breastfed babies will never drink more than 3-4oz in one sitting, all the way through their first year of life.  It's this fact that is partially credited for the fact that breastfed babies are at lower risk of obesity - they never get used to having large volumes of food and don't 'stretch' out their tummies early in life.

Baby still seems hungry after a bottle of 3-4oz?  Look for a post soon on how to determine if baby is really hungry, or just being overfed.


  1. This information is really helpful! Thank you so much for posting it! I got your site from one of my IV playmates.


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