What to Know About Feeding Your Baby in the First Year
All babies develop at different rates and have different nutritional needs, but you can use these guidelines to learn more about what, how much, and when to feed your baby.
Parents often worry about whether they are giving their baby enough breast milk, formula, or solid food. The fact that babies need different amounts of food based on their weight, appetite, and age can make things even more confusing. Lucky for us, experts have some suggestions.
Unless your baby’s paediatrician tells you otherwise, one of the most important things you can do is pay attention to your baby’s hunger and fullness cues instead of giving them a specific amount or sticking to a strict schedule. Read on to find out how to feed your baby based on their age, and if you’re still not sure, ask a paediatrician for specific advice on how to feed your baby from the time they’re born until they’re a toddler.
Baby Feeding Chart
Depending on a baby’s weight, age, and other factors, their feeding needs may be a little different from one to the next. However, most babies will have similar nutritional needs. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that babies should be fed when they look like they are hungry.
This happens a lot in the first few months of life. Every two to three hours, babies will need to eat. By the time they are two months old, babies will eat every three to four hours. By the time they are six months old, they will eat every four to five hours. Here are the average amounts of breast milk or formula that babies need at each feeding for each stage.
|Age of Baby||Average Amount of Breast Milk or Formula per Feeding||Expected Number of Feedings per Day|
|Newborn||1 to 2 ounces||8 to 12 feedings|
|2 weeks||2 to 3 ounces||8 to 12 feedings|
|1 month||3 to 4 ounces||8 to 10 feedings|
|2 months||4 to 5 ounces||6 to 8 feedings|
|4 months||4 to 6 ounces||6 to 8 feedings|
|6 to 12 months||7 to 8 ounces||4 to 6 feedings|
All of a baby’s calories and nutrients should come from either breast milk or formula. Here is a rough outline of how newborns usually eat.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that most babies eat every two to three hours and drink 1 to 2 ounces of breast milk at each meal. This amount goes up to 2 to 3 ounces when your baby is 2 weeks old.
If you pump and bottle-feed, you can see how much breast milk your baby is taking in at each feeding. If you feed your baby directly from the breast, it’s much harder to measure how much your baby is taking in. That’s fine.
If your baby is nursing, you can use the amount of milk they give you to figure out how much they are taking in. If your baby wets their diaper two to three times a day in the first few days and then five to six times a day after they are 4 or 5 days old, you know they are getting enough to eat.
In the first week, a formula-fed baby will take about 1 to 2 ounces at each feeding. By the end of the first month, they will take 3 to 4 ounces at each feeding. Most formula-fed babies eat every three to four hours, and they are more likely to have a regular feeding schedule than breastfed babies.
Amy Lynn Stockhausen, M.D., an associate professor of general paediatrics and adolescent medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, says that as a general rule, you should aim to feed your baby 2.5 ounces of formula per pound of body weight every day. Again, though, it’s important to pay attention to your baby’s cues instead of giving them a set amount of formula.
During the first few weeks, you should wake your baby up to eat if they don’t wake up on their own. In the first few weeks after birth, the AAP says that babies should be woken up to eat after four to five hours of sleep.
1 to 3 Months Old
Between 1 and 3 months, your baby’s appetite will grow, and they’ll be able to tell you when they’re hungry more clearly. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that a 2-month-old baby should eat 4 to 5 ounces every three to four hours.
If you use formula, you might want to look for one that has 2′-FL HMO added to it. These human milk oligosaccharides are found naturally in breast milk. Research has shown that they act as a prebiotic, helping to keep the gut healthy and build the immune system.
Because of this, some researchers think that adding HMOs to infant formula could be a good way to feed babies. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also said that three HMOs, including 2′-FL, are generally thought to be safe.
4 to 6 Months Old
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that most babies are ready to start solids around 6 months (CDC). But because every baby is different, yours may have a slightly different schedule. So, how do you know when your baby is ready?
When babies are ready to try solids, they often show signs like:
Getting good at grabbing
Getting control of your head and neck
Losing the reflex that pushes food out of their mouths when they stick out their tongue
Babies younger than 4 months don’t have these skills yet, so you shouldn’t start giving them solids before 4 months. When you first start giving your baby solid food, try to give them about 1 to 2 tablespoons of food twice a day.
Solid food shouldn’t be a baby’s main source of nutrients before he or she is 12 months old. Instead, breast milk or formula should be used. Even at 4 months, babies should still drink about 4 to 6 ounces at each feeding. The AAP says that once they are 6 months old, they can have up to 8 ounces of milk every four or five hours.
Remember that breast milk or formula will still be your baby’s main source of food for the first year, even if you give them solids. The AAP says that by the time your baby is 6 months old, he or she should be taking in 6 to 8 ounces of formula at each of their four to five feedings a day. At 6 months, a baby who is still being breastfed should still eat every 4 to 5 hours.
6 to 9 Months Old
Natalie Muth, M.D., R.D.N., co-author of The Picky Eater Project, says that when a baby is 6 to 9 months old, almost all of its calories should still come from breast milk or formula. At this age, a baby who is fed formula shouldn’t get more than 32 ounces of formula a day.
At this age, your baby’s nursing schedule may change because of growth spurts or because he or she needs more comfort. Because of this, it’s still important to watch for signs that they are hungry instead of sticking to strict schedules and limits. If you notice your child isn’t nursing as much after you give them solid foods, the CDC says to give them breast milk before a meal.
Since most of your baby’s calories are still coming from breast milk or formula, don’t worry about getting them to eat solid food bite after bite. You can give your child food whenever you sit down to eat. At this point, solids are more about the ritual and exposure than about nutrition (though it’s still important to offer nutritious options!). At this age, you can feed them things like:
Single-grain baby cereal with added iron
Pureed foods, such as meats, vegetables, and fruits
Finger foods like strained vegetables and fruit
Some experts say that you should introduce one food at a time to see if there are any allergic reactions or digestive problems. If you have a family history of food allergies, you may want to wait to introduce things like casseroles that have a lot of different foods until you’ve introduced each food on its own.
Alan Greene, M.D., author of Feeding Baby Green, makes a pasta casserole with red sauce for his family. “One thing I really like about casseroles is that if a child likes the base flavour, you can add a bunch of other vegetables to it, and he’s usually fine with it,” he says.
If it seems like your baby can’t get enough to eat or can’t get enough to eat, talk to a health care provider.
9 to 12 Months Old
At this age, babies should still get about 7 to 8 ounces of liquid each time they eat. Most babies can only drink up to 32 ounces of formula in 24 hours. Dr. Muth says that by 9 to 12 months, your baby should get about half of his or her calories from food and the other half from breast milk or formula.
Growing babies usually have a wide range of tastes because they’ve learned that eating tastes good, so don’t be afraid to give them bites from your plate that are safe for babies. If they want more, give it to them, but don’t take it personally if they push the food away.
Babies like to play with their food, so you could also use yoghurt or oatmeal to dip whole-grain crackers or vegetables in. Just make sure the food is cooked in a safe way and stay away from foods that are small, round, hard, or the size of a child’s airway.
After 12 Months
Dr. Muth says that after your baby’s first birthday, most of the calories he or she eats should come from finely chopped table food. Serve whole milk in a sippy cup at meals and snacks to meet their calcium needs. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the US Department of Agriculture say that toddlers should get 700 mg of calcium a day, which is the same as drinking 2 to 3 cups of milk a day. However, it’s important to remember that not all of that calcium has to come from milk.
Setting up a regular schedule for meals and snacks can also be helpful, since your child will be more hungry and willing to try new things at this age. If you’re not sure how to feed your baby, you should always talk to a doctor or nurse.