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How much formula is too much?
Q: My 5-week-old eats/drinks at least 40 oz. of formula a day. Is that normal? And is it still too early to start adding some cereal to his diet?
A: Jennifer, babies are born in different sizes and with different appetites, so it’s difficult to say exactly how much your baby should eat. But the general rule is that a baby should drink 2½ oz. of formula per pound of body weight. Most 5-week-olds weigh between 7 and 10 pounds, and drink 16-24 oz. per day. They usually drink about 4 oz. at a time, approximately every 4 hours.

If your 5-week-old baby drinks 40 oz. of formula a day, it may be too much. Be sure to check that you’re preparing the formula properly. If you’re buying formula as a concentrate or powder that you need to add water to, make sure you’re adding the right amount of water. If you’re adding too much water, then your baby isn’t getting as much nutrition from each bottle and might need to drink more to feel satisfied.

The other key is to give your baby a bottle only when he’s hungry. But how do you know for sure when he’s hungry? This is one of the most challenging things about caring for a newborn—learning how to recognize what each fuss and cry means. Sometimes fussing or crying means “I’m hungry” and you’ll need to feed your baby—you’re likely to hear that fussing about 3-4 hours after the last feeding. But other fussing and crying in between feedings can mean other things, for example:
  • I’m lonely and bored—pick me up, talk and sing to me, play with me, take me for a walk
  • I’m wet—change my diaper
  • I’m overstimulated or tired—stop playing with me, give me a pacifier, or put me down for a nap.
If you give your baby a bottle every time he fusses, you might be feeding him too much. If he fusses when it hasn’t yet been 3 hours since his last feeding, try seeing whether he might need to be picked up, changed, given a pacifier, or put down for a nap instead.

It’s still too early to give your baby solid food. Experts recommend that you wait until the baby is 4-6 months old to give solid food, and never put cereal in a baby’s bottle. Until 4-6 months of age, your baby’s digestive system isn’t yet mature enough, and giving him solid food increases the chance of abdominal discomfort and food allergies.

Be sure to talk with your pediatrician about your baby’s feeding as soon as possible. The doctor will be able to examine your baby and give you good advice about what and how much to feed your baby.

Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician