How Much Milk Does a Newborn Need?

Feeding Basics for the First Few Days

Is your baby getting enough to eat? Is she gaining weight? What's normal for a newborn, anyway? Those first few weeks come with many questions, many of which center around meeting your newborn's basic needs. Newborns usually feed on-demand after birth, but having an idea of what's normal helps you figure out if your little one is getting enough to eat.


Newborn baby boy lying on bed, sleeping, close up

The Frequency of Breastfeeding During the Second Month

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It's tough to know how much milk your newborn gets if you nurse, since it goes directly from breast to baby. Instead of worrying about how many ounces of breast milk your baby eats, focus on how often and how long he nurses.

Your newborn should nurse about once every two to three hours in the beginning. That works out to approximately eight to 12 nursing sessions each day. Newborns often nurse for 20 to 45 minutes each session. Once your baby slows down or stops nursing on one side, pause for burping before offering the other breast. As your baby gets more efficient at nursing, the sessions may become shorter.

Formula Feeding

If you choose formula for your baby, it's much easier to tell how much he eats. Newborns typically eat between 2 to 3 ounces each time. Expect your formula-fed baby to eat every three to four hours. The formula tends to fill your baby's tummy for a little longer than breast milk, which is digested faster. At around 1 month old, your baby should eat at least 4 ounces per feeding.

Signs Your Newborn Needs to Eat

Newborn baby boy lying on bed, sleeping, close up

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Experts recommend feeding your baby on demand. Not sure what that means? Watch your little one for signs of hunger. As soon as you notice them, offer the breast or bottle. If you wait too long, the subtle hunger cues turn into full-blown crying. Your upset newborn may have trouble calming down enough to eat right away.

Signs that your little one is ready for her next meal include:

  • Stretching
  • Sucking motions
  • Rooting
  • Lip movements
  • Sucking on hands or fingers
  • Opening and closing mouth

Is Your Newborn Getting Enough to Eat?

Babies vary in their feeding schedule and the amount they eat, so how do you know if your baby is getting enough? Keep an eye on his diapers and weight gain to figure it out.

Your baby loses weight after birth, but he should start regaining weight quickly if he gets enough to eat. Most babies gain around 6 ounces per week once mom's milk comes in. Monitor your little one's weight, and check with your pediatrician if he doesn't seem to be gaining weight as expected.

Changing diapers may not be your favorite mom chore, but lots of wet and dirty diapers are a good sign of your baby's nutrition. A baby who gets enough to eat usually has at least five or six wet diapers per day. Look for at least one bowel movement per day as another sign that your baby is eating enough. Many babies poop after each feeding session in the first few weeks. Breastfed babies may poop less often, since their bodies use almost all of the breast milk.

Newborn Feeding Tips

Your baby needs a solid feeding routine from the start to regain the initial weight loss after birth and to get the nutrients she needs to thrive.

Use these breastfeeding tips to help your baby nurse better:

  • Nurse often to help your milk come in.
  • Position your breast so your baby's lower jaw hits below the nipple with as much of the areola in her mouth as possible. If she only takes in the nipple, she won't be able to suck well. A bad latch is also painful for you.
  • Try different positions to improve the latch and your and your baby's comfort. 
  • Hold off on bottles and pacifiers for a few weeks until nursing is well-established. 
  • Start nursing on the opposite side each time. If she starts on the right breast for one session, start on the left the next time she eats. Since babies tend to nurse more from the first breast, alternating your starting side helps balance out milk production.

If you're formula-feeding your baby, use these tips to make things easier:

  • Boil the bottles, nipples and rings for five minutes before using them for the first time.
  • Mix the formula per the directions on the package to ensure your baby gets enough of the necessary nutrients. 
  • Warm the bottle gently in a bowl of hot water. Avoid the microwave, which can cause uneven heating. 
  • Test the formula temperature before feeding your baby by dropping some of the liquid on your wrist or the back of your hand. If it feels uncomfortably warm, cool it before feeding your little one.