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How Much and How Often to Formula Feed

Like breastfed babies, infants nourished with formula should be allowed to feed on demand. That helps them to eat only when they are hungry, which sets the stage for easier weight control in the future.

Babies sleep a lot just after birth. During the first few days of his life, your baby will take very little at a sitting, perhaps just an ounce or two, but he will need to eat frequently (see the chart with suggested number of bottle feedings below). Don't allow sleeping babies to miss a feeding because you don't want to wake them, or think that you should not. Wake baby after three hours and offer him a bottle to ward off the risk of dehydration and malnutrition.

Your baby's appetite kicks in soon enough and his formula consumption should, and typically does, increase accordingly. Infants need to drink enough formula to put on about one ounce of weight every day during the first three months. Your regular visit to the pediatrician during this time will help the doctor gauge your baby's development. Growth slows to about a half ounce gain a day between three and six months, and babies gain even less than that as they get closer to their first birthday.

Don't feel badly when your newborn doesn't drink the whole bottle or eat according to the suggested intakes below. Babies should be fed when they are hungry. Parents must recognize and respect their child's signals that they are full and not try to overfeed them to comply with arbitrary eating goals.

Like their breastfed counterparts, formula-fed babies do not require extra fluid unless it is very hot and humid outside.

Suggested Number and Volume of Bottle Feedings for a Normal Infant

Age Number of Daily Bottles Amount of Formula in Each Bottle

Birth to 1 week 6 to 10 1 to 3 ounces
1 week to 1 month 7 to 8 2 to 4 ounces
1 month to 3 months 5 to 7 4 to 6 ounces
3 months to 6 months* 4 to 5 6 to 7 ounces
6 months to 9 months 3 to 4 7 to 8 ounces
10 months to 12 months 3 7 to 8 ounces

*You can begin feeding your child solid foods such as iron-fortified infant cereal at four months of age. Formula consumption tends to begin declining after six months because it's assumed that your baby will be eating more solid foods as time goes on.

Source: Manual of Pediatric Nutrition, D. G. Kelts and E. G. Jones. (Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1984).

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Copyright © 2002 by Elizabeth M. Ward. Excerpted from Healthy Foods, Healthy Kids with permission of its publisher, Adams Media Corporation.

To order this book visit Amazon.com.


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