In this article
Here are a few pointers to help you work out how much formula to give your baby.
How will I know when my baby's hungry?Your baby’s appetite will vary from day to day and month to month, so try to let him set the pace. Your baby will feed as often as he needs to, as long as you learn to spot his cues and respond to them.
When your baby’s hungry, he may start rooting, which means he will turn his head and open his mouth toward your chest (UNICEF 2010). He may also make some sucking motions and bring his hands to his mouth (UNICEF 2010).
Offer your baby a bottle as soon as you spot these signs. If you wait until your baby starts crying, he may be too upset to feed (UNICEF 2010). By responding to your baby's feeding cues, you can make feeding much easier for both you and your baby.
When you're feeding your baby, keep a watch for signs that he's had enough, such as slowing down or resting. These pauses give your baby time to feel whether or not he's full.
Bonding and bottle-feeding
Discover how to bond with your baby while feeding formula or expressed breastmilk.More baby videos
How much formula should I measure out?If your baby isn't eating solids yet, there’s a rough guide that you can use to work out how much formula to give.
Most full-term babies need between 150ml and 200ml of formula per kilogram of their body weight every day (NHS 2014a, BNFC 2015, UNICEF 2014). So, if your baby weighs 3kg, he'll probably need between 450ml and 600ml of formula over a 24-hour period to satisfy his hunger. However, he may want less than this in the first week, as he will only have a tiny tummy (NHS 2014a, UNICEF 2014).
These measurements are a rule of thumb. Just as your appetite varies with each meal, your baby isn't going to take exactly the same amount at each feed (NHS 2014a, BNFC 2015). So don't force your baby to finish a bottle, even if there is only a little bit left (NHS 2014a, UNICEF 2014).
If your baby has been prescribed a specialised formula, check with your GP or health visitor how much you should offer each day (NHS 2014b).
How will feeding change as my baby grows?How much formula your baby needs depends not only on his weight, but also on his age. Here’s a rough month-by-month guide to help you work out how much to give your baby:
- During the first couple of weeks, try giving your baby between 60ml and 70ml at each feed (Crawley and Westland 2013). He won’t be able to manage much more than this in one go.
- From around two weeks to two months, he will probably want between 75ml and 105ml at each feed (Crawley and Westland 2013). He’ll consume anywhere from 450ml to 735ml in one day (Crawley and Westland 2013). You'll soon sense if your baby needs more, as he'll finish his feed quickly and then look around for second helpings!
- When your baby’s between two months and six months, he may want between 105ml and 210ml at a feed (Crawley and Westland 2013).
- Once your baby reaches six months, he may want between 210ml and 240ml at a feed (Crawley and Westland 2013). His total formula intake may be around 900ml a day (Crawley and Westland 2013).
- When you start giving your baby solids, his daily intake of formula milk is likely to gradually decrease to about 600ml (Crawley and Westland 2013).
- Once your baby is fully established on solids, he’ll need about 600ml of formula every day alongside a varied diet (Crawley and Westland 2013, NHS 2012a). However, all babies are different. Try not to worry if he doesn’t want this amount of milk, you can always give him milky foods such as custard, rice pudding, and yoghurt.
- After your baby's one year old, he can move from drinking formula to full-fat cow's milk (NHS 2012b, UNICEF 2010).
Bear in mind that these are only rough guidelines, and your baby will let you know if he's getting too much or too little formula. If you’re not sure, talk to your health visitor.
When should I replace formula with solids?When you introduce your baby to solids at about six months, he won’t be eating a wide enough variety of foods to give him all the nutrients he needs. So it’s important to carry on giving your baby formula milk until he's a year old.
From six months, it is best to also give your baby a vitamin supplement, particularly if he’s drinking less than 500ml of formula per day (UNICEF 2010).
Visit our communityWhat's the best way to store formula? How can you manage feeds when out and about? Get tips and advice from other bottle-feeding parents in our friendly BabyCentre community.
You may also like:
Last reviewed: November 2013
ReferencesThis article was written using the following sources:
BNCF. 2015. 9.4.2 Enteral nutrition. British National Formulary for Children, Formulary, Nutrition and Blood. evidence.nhs.uk [Accessed January 2016]
Crawley H, Westland S. 2013. Infant milks in the UK: A practical guide for health professionals. First Steps Nutrition Trust. firststepsnutrition.org [pdf file, accessed October 2013]
NHS 2012a. Introducing solid foods. nhs.uk [pdf file, accessed October 2013]
NHS 2012b. Guide to bottle feeding. nhs.uk [pdf file, accessed October 2013]
NHS 2014a. Infant formula: common questions. NHS Choices, Health A-Z. nhs.uk [Accessed January 2016]
NHS 2014b. Types of infant formula. NHS Choices, Health A-Z. nhs.uk [Accessed January 2016]
UNICEF. 2010. A guide to infant formula for parents who are bottle feeding. UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative. babyfriendly.org.uk [pdf file, accessed October 2013]
UNICEF. 2014. A guide to infant formula for parents who are bottle feeding: the health professionals' guide. UNICEF UK, Baby Friendly. unicef.org.uk [Accessed January 2016]