How Much Milk Does a Baby Need in the First Few Days?

How Much Milk Your Baby Should Drink in the First Few Days

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Gunjan Baweja (Paediatrician)
View more Paediatrician Our Panel of Experts

As you enter the world of motherhood you try to not leave any stone unturned to be a good mother. Within an hour of birth, you hold your newborn in your arms and begin breastfeeding. Breastfeeding a newborn on the first day is a task. It is a moment full of joy but you are nervous and anxious. Are you doing it right? Is your baby comfortable? Are you producing enough milk? A grandmom or a midwife could be good advisers but being equipped with all the necessary information makes it easier.

Colostrum: The First Milk

Colostrum is the very first milk that is produced by the mother’s body. It ranges from being a clear fluid in some mothers to golden brown and thick in consistency in others. For the first few days, the colostrum produced is the most suitable food for the baby’s immature stomach and intestines. It contains more protein and less fat compared to matured milk. Produced in a small quantity, it is power-packed and enough for the baby, as at this stage an hourly feeding is sufficient.

It also has laxative properties that help the baby by clearing meconium off the intestines (The first tarry stool is called meconium). Colostrum is packed with antibodies that are crucial for your little one’s immunity development. It is as good as giving him his first dose of vaccination. No wonder, it is also known as ‘liquid gold’!

Colostrum: The First Milk

Is My Body Producing Enough Milk for My Baby?

You may think you are not producing enough milk. However, it is important to understand that it is just the beginning. Gradually, as the days go by and as your baby continues to suckle, the reflex stimulation will lead to a gradual increase in the hormone prolactin that is responsible for producing milk in your body.

The milk-ejection reflex (also known as let-down reflex) is a function of oxytocin hormone released in the brain which causes the milk stored in your breasts to be squeezed down towards your nipples as your baby continues to suckle. This suckling-prolactin-oxytocin-ejection reflex becomes stronger day by day. Also, the hormone Oxytocin is known as a happy hormone for the mother. It makes her relax and de-stresses her. Also, complete emptying of the breast acts as a stimulator for more production.

Newborn’s Stomach Size in the First Few Days

At birth on day one, the volume of the newborn’s stomach is barely 5-7 ml. It increases to 20-25 ml by the middle of the 1st week and 45-60 ml by the 1st week. In the first month, the baby can consume 80-150 ml of milk, and it gradually increases as the child grows. There is variation in stomach capacity according to the birth weight and subsequent weight gain over a period of time.

How Many Millilitres of Milk Does a Newborn Need Per Day?

WHO and UNICEF recommend newborn baby feeding on demand. This means there is no specific limit on newborn’s milk consumption per day. Feed your baby whenever and how much ever times the baby wants. Babies show signs and give you cues when they are full and do not wish to be fed further. The table below serves as a general guide to how much milk a baby needs per day. As newborn milk intake is highly variable, this is just a rough guide.

Newborn Milk Intake Chart: How Much ml of Milk Should a Newborn Drink as Per the Present Weight

Weight In Grams Milk Intake in ml Per day
2265 390
2,491 429
2,718 467
2,944 507
3,171 546
3,397 584
3,600 639
3,850 664
4,000 720
4,303 741
4,500 801
4,756 819
4,900 879
5,209 897
5,400 960
5,662 976
5,889 1015
6,115 1053
6,400 1119
6704 1155
6795 1172
7021 1210
7300 1280

When Should You Feed Your Baby?

As discussed, newborn baby feeding should be on-demand, starting within 1 hour of delivery. You should continue doing so throughout the night. Your baby will give you signs, called as feeding cues, when hungry. Identify these early and begin feeding.

Early Feeding Cues:

  • The baby will start stirring.
  • The baby will open his mouth and turn his head seeking your breasts (called as rooting).

Mid / Active Baby Hunger Cues:

  • Increase in the movements
  • Stretching
  • Sucking his fist and fingers.

Late Baby Hunger Cues: (at this stage it is difficult to feed the baby and the feed may not be satisfactory)

  • Crying
  • Pink-coloured skin
  • Excessive physical movements.

When Should You Feed Your Baby?

You must always aim to calm your baby first and then consider feeding him if he exhibits late hunger cues. Offer skin-to-skin contact and try to feed your baby by snuggling him close to your breasts.

How Often Should You Feed Your Newborn Baby?

In the early days when the quantity of milk produced is less, the baby will feed every 1 hour. As the child grows, the quantity of milk intake per feed increases and the number of feeds per day decreases. So, how much milk a newborn should drink during each feed depends on how frequent the feeding is. On average, a baby feeds 8-12 times per day. As mentioned above, look for the feeding cues and you will know it is breastfeeding time for your newborn.

How Long Should You Feed Your Baby?

There are no guidelines on how long a baby should be breastfed. Your baby is your best guide. After adequate feeding, the baby will stop suckling, push the nipple away, fall asleep or become drowsy. If the baby does not want to sleep, he will look calm, playful and satisfied. You may try to offer the other breast and continue feeding if the baby is accepting the feed.

Signs Showing Your Baby is Getting Enough Milk

  • A calm, quiet, playful baby indicates that he is well-fed. If not, he will show signs of hunger; feeding cues.Signs Showing Your Baby is Getting Enough Milk
  • There will be a steady and adequate weight gain after 2 weeks. Despite sufficient feeding, babies tend to lose some weight in the first 2 weeks and it is normal.
  • There should be 2-3 soiled nappies in the first 2 days. There will be an increase in these nappies to 6 to 8 or more per day after the 1st week. Also, the colour of the baby’s urine is a good indicator. Pale yellow to clear urine indicates that he is well fed.
  • The baby will pass stool at least 2-3 times per day (soft yellow stools) if adequately fed (only 1-2 stools per day in the first few days). Later on, some babies may pass a small amount of stool each time the feed to even once in 5 to 7 day, which is again normal.
  • Weighing the baby before and after meals gives a gross estimation of the quantity of milk consumed.

In some circumstances, the mother may not be producing sufficient milk (Stress, Sheehan syndrome, twins) or the baby may not be able to suck the milk adequately (premature baby, sick baby). The rooting and suckling reflex is not well developed in premature babies. So, despite the adequate frequency of feeding, the baby may not show signs of being well fed. In such situations, your baby might need additional formula milk or expressed breast milk until enough milk is produced.

Also, it is important for the mother to take good care of nipples apart from keeping them clean. The nipple fissures make breastfeeding painful and can affect milk production. Wash the nipples with water and mild soap, before and after feeding. Use nipple shield for the fissures to heal. Avoid feeding on the affected side until the fissures heal. Consult your healthcare provider if it does not heal in 24-48 hours.

Also Read: Breastfeeding Your Baby: All You Need To Know To Get Started

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