If you need to give your baby an expressed breast milk feed, it’s helpful to have an idea of the volumes you will need.
Babies who are feeding from the breast will have some feeds where they drink lots of milk and other feeds where it is more like a snack. Our babies are really clever and well adapted to take as much milk from the breast as they want, they know how to satisfy themselves perfectly! They drink like this because during the day your milk changes in its level of fat, for example it is different between morning time and night time, as well as at the beginning and end of your feeds, plus additional factors which affects how much your baby drinks are your baby’s age, their metabolism and their genes.
We cannot know exactly how much milk a baby drinks from the breast, unless we weighed them before and after breastfeeds, but we can tell how well they are feeding by observing for:
If your baby needs to drink your expressed breast milk in the first week, perhaps because your baby is not yet breastfeeding or you need to give extra milk to increase their weight, then your midwife will give you a personalised guide on how much to give your baby in the hospital and for when you go home as well.
In the first few days healthy term born babies only need very small volumes, just a few mls normally. Once your milk comes in you will be advised to increase the volumes you give your baby. The volumes will increase rapidly as will your own milk supply, so don’t panic too much if the volumes you’ve been advised to give for the next few days look much bigger than what you’re making in the first few days. Once your milk comes in you’ll be expressing lots!
For babies who are unwell with low blood sugar or jaundice, or those who have been born prematurely the midwives and doctors will give you advice on how much milk your baby needs. These volumes may be different to the baby above.
The important thing is that until your baby is able to breastfeed well themselves keep expressing 8-10 times a day as this will make sure you initiate and build up your milk volumes to where they need to be for now and in the future.
A study by Dr. Jacqueline Kent from the University of Western Australia showed that once babies are 4 weeks old they drink about the same amount each day, and they do this until they are 6 months old! Dr. Kent found that babies in the study drank anywhere between 478ml and 1356ml per day, but the average baby drinks 800mls every day.
So, in order to work out how much to feed your baby here are some tips:
For example: 750ml ÷ 8 = 94ml per feed
1000ml ÷ 8 = 125ml per feed
Therefore, the recommended amount for a baby aged 1 – 6 months is between 90 – 150ml per feed.