Q&A: How much milk does a newborn need?

Posted in All, Breastfeeding and tagged , .

Newborns are so beautiful, and also so very, very hard. Regardless of whether your bub is a sleepy little angel or a nighttime party animal, you’re bound to wonder how much milk newborns actually need and if they’re getting enough. You’re not alone, and it’s yet another question that doesn’t necessarily have a clear answer.

How big is my newborn’s stomach?

You may have seen some of those cute little pictures rolling around on the internet that compare your bubs tummy to pieces of fruit, or marbles. Recent research suggests, however, that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. A more likely answer is that, just as all babies are different sizes, so too are both their tummies, and their ability to relax them.

Like everything else in their little lives, babies have to learn to eat. They’ve been practising by swallowing amniotic fluid in the womb, but the real deal is very different. Thankfully, they’re quick learners, and quick growers so they’ll be up for a full milk buffet before you know it!

How much milk does a newborn need?

In the first few days of life, it may seem like they’re breast or bottle-feeding all the time, and that’s ok. Because your milk probably hasn’t come in just yet, they’re really eating very little. They usually start at around 15mL and increase gradually up to around 80mL by two weeks of age.

You can expect they’ll want to feed every two hours, adding up to around 8-12 feeds over the course of the day. Because they’re all a little bit different, your midwife or doctor will probably just tell you to feed your baby on demand – basically, whenever they want it, they get it!

It’s very difficult to overfeed a breastfed baby, and you’re unlikely to overfeed a bottle-fed baby. They’re pretty good self-regulators and don’t tend to pig out on their favourite foods as we do.

How do I know they’re getting enough?

baby fists open and closed

Regular weight checks are always a good way to monitor how much milk your baby is consuming. The most important thing for you to keep an eye on though, is how much wee bub is doing. Your little one should on average go through 6-8 wet nappies in 24 hours, and their wee should be pale yellow.

If you’re finding lots of dry nappies, or really dark urine, get on the phone with your health care team straight away. Your baby may be dehydrated and this is usually a sign they’re not getting enough to eat.

Another little trick to telling if a breastfed baby is getting enough milk is to look at their hands: closed fist, hungry; open hand, had enough.

Our bodies are amazing. It may take a little while but, breast or bottle, you and your baby will have this feeding thing down pat in no time. Until then, trust your instincts and, if in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask for help.


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