How Much Milk Does a Newborn Really Need?

breastfeeding babyMany new mothers are anxious to know if their babies are getting enough to eat. Especially for breastfed babies, it can be difficult to gauge just how much milk a newborn is actually drinking. Parents that are formula-feeding may overfeed a baby in order to finish a bottle while mothers who are breastfeeding may worry if they are producing enough milk.

The truth is, in the first few days of life, a newborn usually needs a lot less to eat than you may think. Some pediatricians at the hospital I work with maintain the belief that a breastfed baby can go 1 or 2 days with a few small feedings before they become concerned. They base this on the fact that a newborn generally has some “reserves” that they’ve built up to endure labor and delivery and may use their reserves as energy in the first day or so following birth.

Additionally, a newborn’s stomach is actually very tiny, especially on the first day.  

On his first day of life, a newborn’s stomach is actually only the size of a small marble.

Image via Flickr: RebeccaBarray

A breastfed newborn will only be drinking a mother’s colostrum (the La Leche League has a helpful guide on colostrum here) which is like highly-concentrated super milk—think quality over quantity. So usually, even though it may look like you aren’t producing a lot of milk, it’s enough to fill your baby’s small tummy. You should aim to offer your baby the breast every two to three hours, timing from the start of one feed to the start of the next, with a goal of feeding 15-20 minutes on each side.

After about the second day, when your milk starts to change in consistency and volume, or if you’ve formula fed your baby right from birth, his stomach will expand to about the size of a larger, “shooter” marble. Formula-fed babies will usually eat 1-3 ounces every three to four hours.

Image via Flickr: underwhelmer 

By the end of your baby’s first week, her stomach will have expanded to the size of a ping pong ball and her feedings may increase as she goes through growth spurts. Be sure to talk with your pediatrician to ensure that your baby is on the right track with future feedings.


Image via Flickr: kenteegardin

What do you think?

How Much Milk Does a Newborn Really Need?

Chaunie Brusie is a coffee mug addict, a labor and delivery nurse turned freelance writer, and a young(ish) mom of four. She is the author of "Tiny Blue Lines: Preparing For Your Baby, Moving Forward In Faith, & Reclaiming Your Life In An Unplanned Pregnancy" and "The Moments That Made You A Mother". She also runs Passion Meets Practicality, a community of tips + inspiration for work-at-home mothers. ... More

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  1. Profile photo of LIZ says:

    this is so cute and good info know

  2. I LOVE that you’re still breastfeeding at 11 months! My daughter is 10 months and I cannot BELIEVE how ashamed my 85 year old grandmothers make me feel; as if I’m doing something wrong by breastfeeding "this long" Thank you

  3. what Chad explained I’m impressed that a stay at home mom can profit $6487 in one month on the computer. did you read this site link.

  4. Profile photo of mgavens mgavens says:

    Help me to feel more comfortable breastfeeding my baby!

  5. Profile photo of Em&Ems Em&Ems says:

    Very informative. Confidence in breast feeding, rising! (:

  6. Profile photo of MetalMama MetalMama says:

    Didnt know that. Good to know 🙂

  7. Profile photo of Theresa Theresa says:

    I too, being a first time mom, wondered if he was getting enough breastmilk…until he was hitting the 95th percentile in both height an weight everytime we went to the pediatrician! If they’re growing at a steady pace there’s usually no need to be concerned. Interesting facts about their little tummies, but if you’re ever worried about their eating habits, a lot of hospitals in the US now employ lactation consultants that can help calm your nerves and teach new tactics. They visited me about 3 or 4 times in those first 2 days after he was born and taught me a few things. Now he’s 11 months and we’re still going strong! Good luck to all the new mommas out there and remember to stay calm and be patient! 🙂

  8. Profile photo of says:

    So glad to have read this article. I have an average size bust line (aka I think I’m small), and was concerned being a first time mom if I could feed my baby well enough without formula. This blog post was very reassuring along with other info on E.F. It contained information I was wondering about in clear professional detail unlike friendly advice from family and well meaning acquaintances


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