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How much milk does my baby need during the day?

The only person who really knows how much milk your baby needs - is your baby. Problem is, she's not talking. So you need to set things up so that she can communicate how much she needs. The best way to do this is to send milk in a number of small bottles. For the first few days, 2 oz bottles are fine. If your baby drinks them very quickly and always takes another one, then you can gradually increase the amount in the bottles. Ask your care provider to keep careful records of all of her feeding times and amounts for the first few days so that you can adjust the size of the bottles you're sending.

Avoid overfeeding: Your baby can only tell you how much she needs if she's not being stuffed to the gills. Be sure you are using only newborn flow nipples, and make sure her care provider is never encouraging her to finish bottles. Always let the baby end the feeding. More information on bottle-feeding the breastfed baby can be found in the Supply Boosting section of this website, and at Remember that if you allow your baby unlimited access to the breast when you're together, he or she will almost always get enough to eat.

In an 8-9 hour day at childcare, most breastfed babies will take between 8 and 15 oz of milk. I know, that's a huge range! But really, only you and your baby can figure it out. The best guideline is to pump once for each missed feeding, see how much milk you get, and then send that amount.

Doesn't my baby need more as he gets older?

If your baby is in a group child care setting, you will probably notice that the bottles of formula for his little friends seem to be growing. This can strike fear into the heart of the most confident pumping mom. The seeds of doubt are sown - am I starving my child?  The answer, happily, is no. You are not starving your baby. The happy truth is that breastmilk 1) changes in composition as your baby ages to perfectly meet his needs and 2) is much more efficiently digested than formula, so not as much is needed.

In a study published in 1999 (Kent et al., 1999) it was found that the amount of breastmilk taken in by babies fed on demand exclusively at the breast did not change much between the ages of 1 month and 6 months (after which it decreases with the addition of complementary foods). So it's OK if the bottles your sending stay the same size, month after month. If your baby does seem to be taking in more and more - think about what's happening the rest of the day - is he sleeping more at night? Is he feeding less frequently in the evenings? Then he's probably making up for it by eating more during the alert times when he's at childcare.

In short - don't worry. If your baby is happy, don't worry about what the other kids are getting in their lunchboxes.

If your care provider is careful not to overfeed, but tells you that your baby needs more than you're pumping, then check the Supply Boosting page for more tips.

Reference: Kent et al. 1999 Breast Volume and milk production during extended lactation in women. Experimental Physiology 84: 435-447.
Ever wonder how they found this out? These and other similar results have been found by weighing the baby before and after Every. Single. Feed. for a whole day. Can you imagine?? Kudos to the moms who agreed to participate in this study! no, they didn't do it every day - just at representative time-points...


Copyrightę 2005 Kirsten Berggren. All Rights Reserved.