How much should my baby be eating?
As simple as this question sounds, it is not always an easy answer for health care providers or dieticians to answer. It’s like asking the same question for an adult. How much food should I take? A simple answer would be, “as much food as you like until you feel satisfied”. But we know that this answer is not completely true. The answer may be, “eat very small portions just enough to sustain your daily energy, because you are overweight.” Or it may also be, “eat as much as you can and snack often because you are already malnourished.”
These same responses to the feeding question apply to babies. Pediatricians suggest feeding practices bearing in mind the current weight of the baby. They may suggest that a 1-month old to eat 3 oz. every three hours, yet tell another mother to feed her 1-month-old baby every 4 hours. They may also tell one baby to feed every 2 hours while telling another mother to feed her baby every 4 hours because the baby has reflux and her feeding needs to be spaced out. Other factors to consider outside of baby’s weight includes, baby’s metabolism, health, feeding disposition, baby’s sex, and baby’s activity level.
Just as one adult will get filled up on only two slices of bread, while another needs the whole loaf, so also some baby’s like food more than other babies. Feeding questions needs to be tailored to each baby’s need. There’s not a one-size fit all feeding practice for feeding babies. Mothers are the experts on their babies; mothers also know that each baby is different. Health care providers can only give guidance.
Now, having said all this, we will give some sort of suggestion for the average feeding practices for a healthy, normal weight baby.
If you’re breast feeding, doctors recommend feeding more frequently (on demand) for at least 1 week and until your breast milk production is established. Then you may place the baby on a schedule. This schedule initially may be as frequent as every 2-3 hours for the first 2-month, (total of 8-12 feedings) then may be every 3- 4 hours for the next two months depending on your milk production and your babies need. The duration of feeding on each breast varies according to how well the baby is able to latch on and suck. Initial feeding times after delivery may last for 20 minutes each breast, but by 1 month, healthy term babies are usually able to get enough feeding within 10 minutes of sucking each breast. It is however important to watch for weight gain, number of wet diapers, number of spitting up, and your doctor's assessment to determine if baby is getting enough or getting too much breast milk. In most cases, if your baby is not gaining sufficient weight or you think your breast milk is not sufficient, increasing the frequency of feeds is usually what to do rather than increasing the duration of time on the breast. And, if your baby is spitting up more than twice after feeding – you’re probably feeding your baby too much.
The volume of formula feeding increases rapidly within the first 2 months and then gradually increases from 4-6 months and then stabilizes for the second half of the baby’s 1st year. As discussed earlier, setting a definite amount of volume for each baby is not feasible. Each baby’s need defer based on several factors- age, sex, activities, and intrinsic need based on weight and size, sex, (males tend to eat more than female babies). Activity levels, (an active baby will probably feed more than a less active baby) Size, a premature baby will need more volume for his weight compared to a term baby. Culture: American baby’s probably feed more than European babies based on suggestions written on the infant formula package of European formula compared with American feeding suggestions.
The first year of life most calories should be obtained from breast milk or formula feedings. but after 6 months, complementary food are necessary because they provide protein, iron, zinc, and some fat-soluble vitamins and other essential vitamins that may not be sufficient from breast milk or infant formula feeding alone.
Energy requirements of babies range from 80 – 110 kcal/kg/day for healthy babies and up to 120 kcal/kg/day for preterm babies. Babies have innate ability to self- regulate them. They will often stool more and spit up more if fed more than necessary. Babies will also give hunger cues when hungry.