How much milk should baby drink: Breast vs. bottle

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Moms are constantly worrying if their little ones are taking too much or too little milk. Read on to find out what you need to know.

What, your baby drinks 6 to 8 ounces at one go? If mine has 4 ounces at one go it’s a huge accomplishment! Just how do you do it? 

Sounds familiar? I’m sure! New moms always fret about how much milk their baby drinks, especially when they have a point of comparison. So just how much milk should baby drink?

An extremely common question that moms have about how much milk baby should drink is why their breastfed babies seem to take in much less milk than formula-fed babies. This leaves moms worrying if they are doing something wrong.

Average feeding patterns

Breastfeeding moms or moms who are bottle feeding your children breast milk, don’t worry just yet. You can be rest assured that you aren’t doing anything wrong. Drinking more milk is not necessarily better or more ideal.

It’s typical for formula-fed babies to consume more milk than babies who are on breast milk. A study done on 16,755 babies, in Belarus, compared the milk intake of formula-fed and breastfed babies. They found out that formula-fed babies consumed 49% more milk at 1 month of age, 57% more at 3 months and 71% more at 5 months! 

Another study done in Australia shows that breastfed babies between 1 to 6 months of age consistently drink about 3 ounces of milk at each feeding. Younger babies of course take in even less milk.

If you’re wondering how much milk your baby should drink, you might be surprised to learn that breastfed babies’ milk intake doesn’t actually increase drastically in their first 6 months of life. And as their growth slows, these babies continue growing and gaining weight, with the same milk intake which averages at about 25 ounces (750ml) per 24 hours!

Why do formula-fed babies drink more than breastfed babies?

There are a few reasons for this.

1. Milk flow 

During the first few months of a baby’s life, upon swallowing the milk, they have a reflex that automatically triggers the suckling action. Unlike breastfeeding, where you have to worry about let down and milk flow, formula milk flows more consistently. As such, babies naturally tend to drink more milk from a bottle at each feeding.

how much milk should baby drink

Breastfeeding is different from bottle feeding as milk doesn’t flow as consistently.

Babies eventually outgrow this reflexive suckling so if babies get conditioned to feeding from the bottle, they face the risk of overfeeding. So if you’re wondering how much milk should baby drink, it’s probably a lot less than you are feeding them!

2. Breastfed babies have greater control

The problem with breastfeeding is that you are clueless about how much milk your baby is drinking. If she seems satisfied after 5 minutes of drinking, you are likely to coax her to drink more because you are convinced that she needs more milk. And you always wonder how much milk should baby drink.

However, as you watch your baby growing, gaining weight, looking happy and thriving, you start to trust your baby’s instinct and you leave it to her to decide how much she wants. Even when introducing solids at a later stage, you allow your baby to take the lead in deciding the quantity of food she wants to eat.

A study done in the United Kingdom (UK), on babies between 6 to 12 months of age, discovered that breastfeeding mothers don’t pressure their babies to eat and they pretty much go with the flow. Less stress, happy mom and happy baby!

3. When you offer more, they take more!

Earlier in the article, we discussed the study done in Belarus. The other finding was that the babies who drank more were generally given more milk. Their mothers offered them bottles with more than 6 ounces of milk at each feeding.

how much milk should baby drink

If you offer your baby more milk, she will drink more milk.

4. Different rate of metabolism

The nutrients found in breastmilk are used more efficiently. Additionally, breast milk has hormones like leptin and adiponectin. These hormones help babies regulate their appetite and energy metabolism. These hormones also affect their sleep metabolism and formula-fed babies burn more calories in their sleep, as compared to breastfed babies.

Insufficient pumping output

Another situation that leaves moms constantly puzzled is the difference between direct latching and pumping. Many moms who have no problems satisfying their babies when direct latching, don’t seem to be able to keep up with the baby’s demand when they pump milk for them. Sometimes they need to pump twice or even thrice to make enough milk for each feed. And this leaves them wondering if their milk supply is low.

So how much milk should baby drink?

Again, as mentioned earlier, bottle feeding causes babies to drink more, regardless of the type of milk they are offered.

However, there are some things you can do to control the amount of expressed milk that they take in and to reduce the chances of overfeeding. The trick is to keep the milk flow during bottle feeding, slow and steady.

How do you do this?

  • Don’t upgrade the teat according to the baby’s age, keep it at the slowest milk flow that your baby can accept
  • Keep your baby upright while feeding as this slows the flow
  • Take a break every now and then and give your baby a chance to realize that she is full and doesn’t actually require more milk

Also, don’t forget that babies often like to comfort latch and when they don’t get to do that, they might seem like they are demanding more milk when in actual fact they are just yearning to suckle for a longer time.

Moms, we hope that this article puts you at ease. The next time you are tearing your hair out over how much milk should baby drink, just remember that it’s probably less than you think!

Source: Nancy Mohrbacher 

This article was originally published on theAsianparent Singapore

READ: Mixed feeding: Everything you need to know

Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore