Although we’ve written a lot about breastfeeding, we know there are reasons for parents to go the formula route. If that’s you, formula-feeding can seem daunting at the outset. So many options. So many different types of bottles. Questions about how to store, mix, and serve it. Doubts about whether baby is drinking enough, or too much.
You can find a guide to choosing formula here, choosing bottles here, and storing, mixing and serving formula here.
Otherwise, grab a seat and read on to learn about the basics of formula-feeding.
When do I feed my baby?
When your baby is brand-new, feed her when she shows signs of hunger: Rooting, sucking on her hands, opening her mouth, sticking out her tongue, and smacking her lips. Crying is also a sign of hunger, but usually a late one. It won’t take long for a feeding pattern to emerge, and from there you can create feeding routines.
How much do I feed my baby?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers guidelines (see below), but it’s important to remember that every baby is different. Some may eat a bit less or more overall, and appetites can change from day to day or month to month.
The basic rule of thumb is to follow your baby’s lead. She will tell you if she’s full by releasing the nipple, turning away from the bottle, or stopping to smile at you while formula dribbles out of her mouth.
She will tell you if she’s still hungry, too. If she continues sucking or seems frustrated after emptying a bottle, offer her more (start with a small amount and see if that satisfies her). If your baby is drinking more than 32 ounces in 24 hours, bring it up with her doctor.
As long as your baby has about 6 wet diapers a day (pooping frequency varies from baby to baby) AND she’s on track with weight gain, then rest assured she’s eating the right amount.
Now for those AAP guidelines:
- First few weeks — 2-3 ounces every 3-4 hours. If your baby sleeps longer than 5 hours, wake her up to eat.
- By the end of month 1 — 4 ounces every 4 hours
- Increase by about 1 ounce per month
- 6 months to 1 year — 6-8 ounces every 4-5 hours
How do I feed my baby formula?
Hold your baby semi-upright and be sure the nipple is entirely filled with milk (this helps prevent her from swallowing air). If your baby is brand-new, you may need to stimulate the rooting reflex by gently touching the nipple to her cheek or lower lip.
Don’t forget that feeding is primetime for cuddles and talking or singing to your baby, both of which boost brain development!
When can I stop feeding my baby formula at night?
This varies from baby to baby, but you can try cutting nighttime feedings between 2 and 4 months of age IF your baby weighs at least 12 pounds. Be sure to get the green light from your child’s doctor.
How much formula do I give my baby after she starts eating solid food?
Even after your baby starts eating solids, formula should be her primary source of nutrition until age 1. That means she’ll still drink 22-32 ounces of formula per day.
When can I stop giving my baby formula?
When your baby turns 1, solid food steals the show. In addition to solids, she can now drink cow’s milk and water. When it comes to juice, limit your little one’s intake to no more than 4 ounces of 100% juice a day, if that (the AAP reminds parents that juice packs a lot of sugar and calories, and isn’t a substitute for fresh fruit).
You can find more nutrition tips here, and advice about starting solids here.