How Much Milk Should Baby Be Drinking?

I was told to start feeding my 6-month-old son three meals a day. My concern with doing this is should I also still be giving him 32 oz. of formula/breast milk? Right now he eats dinner and four 8 oz. bottles a day.

Close up of a baby sucking on mom's shoulder

Dr. Greene’s Answer:

Many parents share your concern. By the time that you are juggling multiple feedings and formula or breast milk, an uneasy feeling often develops that something is getting lost in the mix. When mealtime comes, which do you feed first, formula or solids? Or should the formula be given between meals, and how much?

How much milk? How often?

It all starts fairly simply:

  • Most healthy formula-fed newborns take 2 or 3 ounces of formula per feeding, and eat every 3 or 4 hours.
  • By one month of age, most have increased on their own to about 4 ounces every 4 hours.
  • By six months, the amount at each feeding has increased to 6 or 8 ounces, but the frequency has dropped to 4 or 5 times a day. By timing these larger feedings while you are awake, your baby often won’t need to eat in the middle of the night.

Another way to express this rule of thumb is that the average baby takes 2 or 3 ounces of formula each day for every pound of body weight, up to a maximum of 32 ounces. A newborn weighing 7 lbs. will take an average of 14-21 ounces of formula in a day. A 4-month-old weighing 14 pounds needs 28-32 ounces.

Nevertheless, these are general guidelines. In real life, this may vary quite a bit from day to day and from baby to baby. It’s best to remain flexible and to let your baby’s appetite guide the amount. You don’t need to coax him to finish a bottle, or stop him if he still acts hungry. If your baby consistently chooses to take more or less than the expected amount, discuss this with your pediatrician.

Illustration of a baby breastfeeding.

What about breastfeeding?

Moms who breastfeed are often worried because they can’t see or measure how much their babies are eating. Babies are born with a sophisticated mechanism that prompts them to nurse until they are full and to stop when their nutritional needs are satisfied. If a mother is not producing enough milk, a healthy baby will act hungry even after feeding and will not gain weight normally. The pediatrician should be called if there is concern.

What about starting solids?

When a baby is still hungry after 32 ounces or nursing 8-10 times, it may be time to start solid foods. Typically, this occurs sometime between 4 to 6 months of age.

There are several other indicators that your baby is ready to start solid foods.  First, note that the AAP recommends breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for your baby for about 6 months. In addition, they advise that most babies are ready to start solid foods when they reach the following milestones:

  • They can sit in a high chair or feeding chair and hold their head upright.
  • They can open their mouths as food comes their way.
  • They can move food from their mouth to their throat.
  • They are approximately double their birth weight and over 13 pounds.

It’s usually best to start with solids once or twice a day, and to finish each meal with nursing or a bottle. Some babies prefer a little formula first to take the edge off their hunger. Babies can have as much of the solids as they want.

At this stage, most of the nutrition still comes from breast milk or formula. The solids provide wonderful experience with flavors, textures, and the mechanics of eating. As the amount of solids they take increases, most babies settle into a pattern of 3 meals of solids each day. The amount of formula tends to drop off a bit, but typically still falls in the range of 6 to 8 ounce bottles given 3 to 5 times a day. Most commonly, a smaller bottle (or half a bottle) is given with each meal and a larger one at bedtime. Some babies also enjoy a bottle first thing in the morning.

How much milk do older babies need?

An older baby can have up to 32 ounces of formula per day. In addition, he can have as much in the way of solids or water as he wants to supplement this. The mealtime formula is usually given at the end of the meals, to top off the solids in a comfortable and easy way. Even though the solids are now playing a larger role, the breast milk or formula still provides the core of the nutritional needs. If a baby begins to regularly take less than about 20 ounces per day, you might want to offer the bottle first and then solids.

Thirst is an extremely strong drive. As long as a baby’s own regulating mechanism isn’t tricked by getting too much juice or water, healthy babies will take enough formula or breast milk to meet their nutritional needs. This is one good reason not to put juice in the bottle.

Relax

Let your baby set the pace, but if he continues to consistently take more than 32 ounces or less than 20 ounces, run it by your pediatrician.

Within these broad guidelines, there is plenty of room for different preferences and schedules. Variety is part of life. Your baby and your own intuition are good guides through these exciting times.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

  1. Concerned mum

    My baby is5 months old and weighs 14pounds. She is only on formula. She hardly takes 3oz evry couple of hours. Its very hard to feed her when she is awake so we mostly feed her with 3-4 oz when she is asleep.I am really concerNed coz she is not taking enough i think.
    I can only dream of feeding her 6-8 oz at a stretch.

    Is there anything I can do to improve the situation? Am i going wrOng somewhere?

    Please help!

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    • Vinni

      I’m worried too, as my 3 month old takes only 2.5 oz 3 to 4 hrs, and at night she hardly drinks. What can be done to increase feed?

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  2. Chris

    my grand son is 1 month old mom thinks if he is crying feed him he is drinking 6 oz every couple hours I can take him talk to him and he falls asleep. But I don’t anything any suggestions?

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  3. Danielle

    I have a question. My little guy is 13 months ajusted. And had had reflux since his very early days. His is almost 15 months and we have moved to the graduate formula do to the need for weight gain. And we do solids with calorie boosters and pedisure. I was wondering how much formula a day he should be getting and how much solid. Or how many calories a very active little one needs a day. He is just over 20 pounds. Thank you

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  4. antoniette

    hi my daughter is 5 months old and i dont no the amount of milk i suppose to give her, cause i give her 6ounces and she crys for more milk so i give her 1oz more sometimes 2 oz more and she drinks it all and thats every 2 1/2 hours, she doesnt take breast milk cause she vomits it back out each time i give it to her , am i feeding my daughter to much milk , please let me no.

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  5. shoaib ali

    My daugher is 32 month .
    Please advise how many feder news per day and night ?

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    • Emmaa

      3 months

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  6. MommyDeb

    My baby girl is 6 months and 12 days today… She is eating solids only 2 times a day. I usually feed her 6 ounces every 3 hours, sometimes 4 hours depending on her hunger.
    I’m not sure if it’s a good amount… sometimes when I feel that she is still hungry I give her 2 ounces more after she’s done with her 6 ounces.. she is still waking up in the middle of the night.. I don’t know if I’m over feeding her.. Please advice.

    She is weighing 20 pounds 4 ounces at 6 months.

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    • Danyehl

      During the day or night when your baby is getting tired to not hold them while they go to sleep. Lay the baby down and let them out themselves to sleep. My son is 4 months old and sleeps all night every night and has for a good while now.

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  7. Fatema

    Fatema.

    My son 6 month old.when he was 5 month old he ate 24 oz formula milk per day.but now he eat less then 20 oz.I’m pretty worried about it.

    Please someone advice me what can I do.

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  8. Lizzy

    My son turns 6months tomorrow and his milk intake is a huge concern to me.
    He usually takes less than 20oz per day. Since we started solids at the 5month mark, he mostly prefer the spoon except for his first bottle of the day. So I mix the milk with cereal and feed him with a spoon which he takes with no resistance.
    I’m at a loss here. He’s never really been a big eater—most he’s eaten in a day has been 28oz since he relegated to the bottle at 8weeks. He’s also been exclusively on breastmilk via the bottle.
    He currently weighs 17.15lbs.

    Should I really be worried? He’s a happy baby—plays and sleeps okay. He even sleeps through the night.

    I need some advise.

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    • Leah

      That sounds like my 8 month old…and my older 2 ☺ I’ve never asked my pediatrician about it because my children have all grown normally and above average! I started them on foods at 5 months and they have all taken 20oz or less around this time and on. A baby knows when it’s hungry or not so I just go by my feelings. Hope this helps! ☺

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    • Katie

      Does he have reflux or an allergy? My son (6 months) stopped eating about six months ago due to discomfort. He always had reflux. Doctors led me to believe it was not an allergy (pretty sure they were wrong). He gradually went from eating 30 oz per day to less than 20 oz. On a hunch, I used hypoallergenic formula for 10 days while I eliminated dairy and gluten from my own diet. Immediately, he started eating twice as much (now eats 32 oz daily). I am slowly reintroducing breastmilk again in hopes that my dairy and gluten free diet will be enough for him to be okay. I see a specialist in 7 days for GI. Hopefully they can shed some light on this whole situation for me. I think if he is eating less than 20 oz, you should be concerned and talk to the pediatrician, especially if he hasn’t gained weight in a long time (2 months). He could be associating eating with pain like my baby was.

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  9. Bethany Harris

    Everything in this article is very very accurate… Thanks DrGreene!!♥♥

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  10. Tessa Chew

    Our daughter is 9 month old and her pediatrician said to stay with formula until she is 1 !

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    • Parmjit Rana

      my baby is nine mounths old I dont know what to Do she is crying @t Night want milk I give her six ounch and her nappies arw changed what shall I do

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  11. Wala'a O Haija

    My baby girl is 9 months now. What is the best amount of milk taht I have to give her?

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    • Terry Arambatzis

      According to the article above, No less than 20 ounces & no more than 32 ounces total amount EACH DAY.

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