How Much Milk Should Baby Be Drinking?

In real life, this may vary quite a bit from day to day and from baby to baby. Remain flexible and let your baby's appetite guide how much milk they drink

Question

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.

Dr. Greene's Answer

Many parents share your concern, and this is a common question for pediatricians. 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. Do not worry too much about calculating the exact number of ounces per feeding or per day.  You don’t need to coax him to finish a bottle, or stop him if he still acts hungry.  Doing so can actually override your baby’s natural hunger and satiety mechanisms.  In general, babies will eat/drink when hungry and stop when full. It is this natural instinct that allows for proper growth and development. At each doctor visit, your pediatrician will check your baby’s growth. If there are concerns, your pediatrician may discuss alternative feeding plans. If you notice your baby refusing food, losing weight, or you are unsure about their growth, please make a visit with your pediatrician to discuss your concerns.

What about breastfeeding?

Moms who breastfeed are often worried because they can’t see or measure how much their babies are eating. As discussed above, 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. This will be seen at your doctor visits during the weight check.  This is one of the reasons even healthy babies see their pediatrician so often. We like to make sure they are growing well!  The pediatrician should be called if there are any concerns about growth.

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 American Academy of Pediatrics (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.  In reality, the number of calories they are getting from solids at this age is very minimal; therefore it is still important to keep their schedule of milk feedings. 

At this stage, most of the nutrition still comes from breast milk or formula. The solids provide a 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, but again there may be quite a bit of individual variation in this schedule 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. 

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 or water in the bottle.

The AAP and most pediatricians do not recommend feeding your baby any juice at all before the age of 12 months. After one year, kids still don’t need juice, but any juice should be limited to less than 6 ounces a day using only 100% fruit or vegetable juice.

Water is only recommended for those babies over 6 months and in small amounts. A good rule of thumb is to limit the daily ounces of water to the age of a baby in months (for example, a 6-month-old can have up to 6 ounces of water). Water can be served in an open or sippy cup.

Relax

Let your baby set the pace, but if he continues to consistently take more than 32 ounces or less than 20 ounces, bring your baby in to see their pediatrician for a feeding discussion and weight check.

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.

Last medical review on: August 15, 2020
About the Author
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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Recent Comments

Hello,

My baby is 21 pounds and 5.5 months and can still only handle 3-4 ounces of formula at each feed, for a total daily intake of 20-26 ounces. Is this normal!?

Thanks,

Cecilia

Hi Aqsa,

When babies are both bottle and breastfed it becomes difficult to know how much they are really drinking, but the good news is, babies who breastfeed have an amazing ability to know how much they need to eat. Once babies start solids, parents may be concerned about the amount of solids their baby is is eating. At 10 months of age, the amount of solid food a baby eats is pretty small. The main thing they are doing at that age is learning to love the flavor of great foods and the skills to eat solids vs drinking.

When looking at a baby’s weight, it’s important to know their height (or length) as well, but unless he is taller than the average 10-month-old, his weight is in the normal range.

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Hi, my baby is 10 months old, weighs 19.8 pounds, and is on combination feed, but he takes maximum 20 ounces of milk. I breastfeed him twice daily, and other than that he has formula. He eats solids 3 times a day only. I am worried that he eats less compared to what i see a baby this age should be taking. Any advice?

Hi Aqsa,

When babies are both bottle and breastfed it becomes difficult to know how much they are really drinking, but the good news is, babies who breastfeed have an amazing ability to know how much they need to eat. Once babies start solids, parents may be concerned about the amount of solids their baby is is eating. At 10 months of age, the amount of solid food a baby eats is pretty small. The main thing they are doing at that age is learning to love the flavor of great foods and the skills to eat solids vs drinking.

When looking at a baby’s weight, it’s important to know their height (or length) as well, but unless he is taller than the average 10-month-old, his weight is in the normal range.

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Hi
My baby is 4.5 months old and on breast milk only. I feed her from The breast in the day and bottle at night. Recently she started drinking 6-9 ounces of breastmilk at night before bed (around 9/10 Pm). She lasts about 4-5 hours before waking up for more and then she drinks about 6 oz
I was wondering if this is normal Or too much since I now only produce about 5 oz of milk every 4 hours.
Shouldn’t she only be drinking as much as 5 oz every 4 hours.
In the day she feeds more often but I don’t know exactly how much since I feed her directly from the breast

Paul,

Thanks for writing in.

Water is not recommended for babies. They should have their thirst quenched with breastmilk or formula. Giving baby water may decrease their appetite for milk and prevent them from getting all the nutrition they need.

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Marita,

How discouraging for you.

As Dr. Greene says, “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.” That means at a minimum a baby that is six months old should get 24oz of formula per day. At the maximum, a six-month-old baby should get 40oz per day. 27 oz is on the low side, but still within a healthy range.

If your baby is not gaining weight or you just “feel he’s off” it’s wise to bring this up with his pediatrician.

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

My baby is 5.5 months and has aversion to the milk. He only drinks it when is half a sleep and mainly in the nights. He is 17.5 pounds, 73cm and drinks 27 ounce of milk, but i have to force him if not he will not take any. Am i doing wrong forcing him? Dr has told me to try different formulas but i do not get an answer on what the minimun amount of milk should be a day.

Marita,

How discouraging for you.

As Dr. Greene says, “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.” That means at a minimum a baby that is six months old should get 24oz of formula per day. At the maximum, a six-month-old baby should get 40oz per day. 27 oz is on the low side, but still within a healthy range.

If your baby is not gaining weight or you just “feel he’s off” it’s wise to bring this up with his pediatrician.

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Paul Cobacha,

Hi good day, my baby was two months old up to now, May I know if my baby can drink water at this age.
Was it good for baby to drink water even if she is in 2 months old.

Thank you very much

Paul,

Thanks for writing in.

Water is not recommended for babies. They should have their thirst quenched with breastmilk or formula. Giving baby water may decrease their appetite for milk and prevent them from getting all the nutrition they need.

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Hi Katie,

What a wonderful eater you have!

At that age most children are eating solids to learn to love the taste of great food and not so much to meet all their nutritional needs. Here are Dr. Greene’s guidelines on how much milk is needed at 9 months:

[At 9 months a 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, 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.

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Hi my son is 9 months old I was giving 4 7oz 🍼 a day with 3 meals but now somone told me to start weaning him off of the formula so I cut him down to three 7 oz bottles and three meals a day is that okay or should I be feeding him more

Hi Katie,

What a wonderful eater you have!

At that age most children are eating solids to learn to love the taste of great food and not so much to meet all their nutritional needs. Here are Dr. Greene’s guidelines on how much milk is needed at 9 months:

[At 9 months a 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, 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.

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

I hope that helps.
Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.