Lorna C. Aliperti, APRN, IBCLC

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How Much Milk?

Breast milk Intake and Weight Gain

Although the purpose of nursing is to feed the baby, quantification of how much milk is involved is often not addressed in parent teaching. Since many studies of breastfeeding indicate that most women stop because they don’t believe they have enough milk, it seems to me that it would help to know how much milk they really need.

Discussion about how long and how often to breastfeed are really attempts to insure adequate infant intake. Such advice is often contradictory and confusing, and is actually useless unless the rate of milk transfer is known.

More is now known about normal parameters of breastfeeding:

In general, after the first week or so, babies take approximately 24 ounces a day (the range is 20-30). Since the average (and there are many variations) feeding is close to three ounces, most babies feed roughly eight times a day. The length of time that a baby is satisfied after a feeding is usually an indication of how much is taken. A baby who nurses every 3 hours is likely to be taking in close to 3 ounces at a feeding. The interval between feedings is a better indication of how much the baby has taken than how long the feeding lasts. In fact, very long feedings (over 45 minutes) often mean the baby isn’t removing the milk effectively.

Normal weight gain. In general, babies are expected to regain their birth-weight by 10 days to two weeks and gain at least 4 and preferably close to 7 ounces a week after that. An ounce a day after two weeks is often considered optimal. After the third or fourth month this slows down to four to five ounces per week from four to six months. Most babies double their birth weight by six months.