How much breastmilk does my baby need?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that during the first six months your baby should only have breastmilk and should eat 8 to 12 times each day. If you have decided to exclusively express your milk rather than feed baby at the breast, there are some things you should remember. You will need to express your milk the same number of times that your baby would breastfeed.

Your baby needs about 55 calories for each pound of body weight. Your milk has approximately 22 calories per ounce. This means that if your baby is 8 pounds, about 440 calories is needed for the baby to grow properly (about 20 ounces of expressed breastmilk) each day. If your baby eats 10 times each day this means that he will eat about 2 ounces at each feeding.

Feeding Cues – How do I know if my baby is hungry?

Babies don’t always eat the same amount so sometimes they will eat more than 2 ounces and sometimes they will eat less. Babies know when they are hungry or full. Feed your baby every time she is hungry or thirsty.

Babies will not typically overeat during the first year of life unless pressured to do so. Remember to watch your baby’s feeding cues. These cues can difficult to see at first. When babies begin to feel hungry they may move, lick or smack their lips. They might open their mouth or suck on their lip. You may see the baby’s eyes moving under their eyelids if they are sleeping. If these cues are not recognized and babies become hungrier they may begin moving their legs and arms quickly. They may start fussing or crying. Babies also have cues to tell you they are satisfied. Moving away from the nipple, smiling, or disinterest in eating may indicate they are finished.

Remember, babies need small frequent meals but no two babies are alike. Sometimes babies will eat more—like right before a growth spurt—and sometimes babies will eat less. Rest assured, babies know how much to eat and will let you know when they are hungry.

In the Table below are some guidelines. These are not hard and fast rules because every baby is different.

Expressing Milk for My Baby – The First 6 Months

Size of Baby
Daily requirement
Average Feeding
Average Intake
Per day(Ounces)
Daily Range
Five27511412 to 14
Six3301.251614 to 16
Seven3851.51817 to 19
Eight4401.91918 to 20
Nine4952.2522.520 to 25
Ten 5502.52522 to 26
Eleven6052.7527.524 to 30
Twelve66033026 to 34
Thirteen7153.2532.530 to 36
Fourteen7703.53532 to 38
Fifteen8254.537.534 to 40
Sixteen88054036 to 42
Seventeen9355.342.538 to 44
Eighteen9905.64540 to 46
Nineteen1045647.542 to 48
Twenty11006.255044 to 50

      Expressing 12 times a day       Expressing 10 times a day       Expressing 8 times a day

1. Heird, WC. Nutritional Requirements During Infancy Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. Ninth Edition 1999. Willimas and Wilkins. pages 839-855.
2. Morin, KH. Update on what and how much infants and toddlers eat. AM J Matern Child Nurs 2006;31(4):269.
©Dr. Jimi Francis 2011.