Infant Feeding Chart: Guideline From Newborns to the First Year

The importance of nutrition is paramount during the first year of life. Providing a wholesome and balanced diet according to stages has great benefits. As parents, you must wonder how much and how many times to feed. Here’s a comprehensive infant feeding chart and guidelines for newborns to the first year.

Infant feeding chart (newborn and baby)

There is no very hard and fast rule when it comes to feeding. However, the nutrition and amount should be adequate to support the child’s development. For example, newborns within the first month may need feeding every one to four hours (2). Also, once they start with solids (after the fourth month), they may drink less milk. All the transition is gradual.

So, identifying the baby’s hunger cues and needs and seeking advice from the doctor will help you a lot. Here is the generalized baby feeding chart to help you.

During the early months, the infants should get nutrition from breast milk or formula (3). According to experts, no solid foods should be given before four months (4, 5). Moreover, the WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months (6).

But, according to some unique needs, you must discuss the nutrition quality and type with the baby’s doctor.

Some of the key points to consider are:

  • The breastmilk and formula are designed to fulfill the baby’s nutrition in an infant’s first year of life.
  • It would be best to discuss introducing the solid foods with the doctor.

Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that all newborns, children, and adolescents should have vitamin D through supplements, formula, or cow’s milk to prevent complications from deficiency. It is now suggested that these groups’ minimum vitamin D intake should be 400 IU daily, beginning soon after birth (7). Your baby’s healthcare provider can advise the right type and quantity of vitamin D supplement.

Guidelines for both breastfed and bottle-fed babies

  • Don’t introduce liquids other than breast milk or formula to babies under one year (8).
  • Never give honey to infants (9, 10).
  • Never add cereal or solid food to the bottle, as it may lead to choking (11, 12).

You must seek professional advice for your unique requirements and other nutrition-related factors.

How long to breastfeed

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months, with continued breastfeeding and appropriate complementary foods for up to 2 years or older (13, 14). 

Also, extended breastfeeding has many benefits besides other food (15). You can also breastfeed as long as you want if you and your baby are comfortable. 

Breast milk-fed babies

Breast milk-fed babies can be fed after birth immediately if you have a milk supply (16). They may need about 8 to 12 feedings daily in the first few weeks of life, feed on demand is the best feeding pattern (17). You must know that the belly of the newborn is very small, and they may have short, frequent feeding sessions (18). Also, they will develop feeding habits with time and create a more regular pattern. 

A general feeding schedule may look like this (2):

One to three months: Your baby will usually feed 7 to 9 times per 24 hours.

Three months: Feedings take place 6 to 8 times in 24 hours.

Six months: You and your baby will have your own pace, usually, your baby will feed within six times a day.

Twelve months: There may be feeding about two to four times a day. 

Also, if you introduce solid foods after six months, it helps to boost your baby’s additional nutritional needs (4, 19).

Note: This is just a general schedule. As you know, every baby’s needs are different. Therefore, discuss it with your doctor. Also, remember to keep tracking the baby’s weight and checking diaper condition daily (20).

Formula-fed babies

The formula-fed babies can have 1 to 2 ounces of infant formula every 2 to 3 hours in the first days of life if your baby is only getting infant formula and no breast milk (21). This means 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. 

In the first few weeks and months, most formula-fed babies can be fed every 3 to 4 hours (21). After introducing solid food, babies aged 6 to 12 months will usually need infant formula about 5 to 6 times in 24 hours (21).

Feeding schedule for newborns

Here is the feeding schedule for newborns:

Breast milk

Breast milk has many advantages and is the perfect food to nourish newborns (22). Lactation is a complex process that starts in pregnancy and is regulated by many hormones (23, 24). You can breastfeed your child as long as you desire. 

Generally, the breastfeeding schedule for a newborn can look like this:

  • For a 0 to 2-month-old baby, you can breastfeed every 2 to 3 hours, which can be 8 to 12 daily feeding 
  • In the newborn stage, you can feed on demand. It’s the easiest way to avoid the tiredness of feeding counting or time scheduling. You and your baby will gradually and naturally co-develop the most suitable schedule for both of you.
  • For 2 to 6 months, you can feed every 3 to 4 hours, 6 to 7 feedings daily.
  • For 6 to 12 months, you can breastfeed every 4 hours, 5 to 6 feeding daily.

Formula

Formula milk is designed to fulfill the nutrition of the baby who cannot get breastmilk for some reason. Usually, it meets special requirements with many types (25). Also, different consistencies have different characteristics and pricing (26). 

When feeding with formula, note that breast milk digests faster than it does. Therefore, the feeding schedule for formula may differ slightly from that of breastmilk (27).

A general feeding schedule with formula milk can look like this (21):

  • For 0 to 1 months baby, you can give 2 to 3 ounces every three to four hours which is 8 to 12 feedings.
  • For 1 to 2 months, you can give 3 to 4 ounces per feeding, which means 6 to 8 feedings per day.
  • For 2 to 4 months, you can give 4 to 6 ounces of feeding, that five feeding per day.
  • For 4 to 6 months, 4 to 8 ounces in each feeding are good, and 5 to 7 feeding daily.
  • For 6 to 12 months, you can give 6 to 8 ounces and 4 to 5 feedings.
  • Observe the baby for signs of hunger and fullness. Using paced responsive feeding (28).

1-3 months feeding schedule

At this stage, you should only feed breast milk or formula milk. You can feed 4 to 5 times every three to four hours. An exclusive formula-fed baby can have 3 to 4 ounces per bottle feeding every 3 to 4 hours

Tips:

  • Feed on demand for newborn babies.
  • Using responsive feeding and gradually developing the feeding schedule.
  • Gently tickle their lips so that they open their mouth to initiate feeding.

4-6 months feeding schedule

Four to six months can be the transition feeding stage. Your baby may or may not show rooting for solids. For example, the signs of starting solids can be (29):

  • They show coordination of eyes, mouth, and hands to pick up and eat food.
  • They know how to swallow food.
  • They can sit with straight heads.

You can feed breast milk, formula milk, and solid food at this stage. About solids, you can give pureed vegetables, fruits, etc (4). Generally, 4 to 6 feedings of breastfeeding or 4- to 6-ounce bottles are good if you have introduced solids having one or two tablespoons.

Tips:

  •  Ask your doctor before introducing solids.
  •  You can give one type of solid at a time and wait for a few days before trying another (this will help them develop the habit gradually).

6-8 months feeding schedule

In this stage, you can increase the level of solids. Moreover, most babies may show signs of eating solid foods. Observing the baby’s needs, you can give breast milk or formula for 3 to 5 feedings (breastfeeding or 6- to 8-ounce bottles). Plus, you can level up pureed solid to 2 to 3 tablespoons or more, depending on your baby.

Tips:

  • If your baby likes the solids, you can increase the variety of the baby’s solid foods.

9-12 months feeding schedule

At this time, the baby may explore food with its hands, swallow, chew, and eat well. You can give breast milk or formula: 3 to 4 feedings (breastfeeding or 7- to 8-ounce bottles).

Also, you can increase the quantity of solids to 1/4th cup. 

Tips:

  • You can add fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein-rich foods to their diet.
  • After discussing them with the doctor, start the solid foods. 

You can observe your baby’s cues and adjust their feeding accordingly. Always follow hygienic practices when dealing with baby food, and highly be aware of the risk of choking when preparing solid food for your baby(29).

Sample baby feeding schedule for 4-6 months

Here is a sample baby feeding schedule for 4-6 months:

  • five to eight nursing sessions a day (or 24 to 36 ounces of formula milk over 24 hours
  • 1 to 4 tablespoons of cereal puree once or twice a day
  • 1 to 4 tablespoons each of suitable-sized and appropriately soft fruit and vegetable once or twice a day

How long should a newborn nurse (per feeding)?

A newborn may feed up to 10 to 15 minutes from each breast. Initially, the baby may take longer to feed as they are new to it. With time they will draw more volume of milk in less time. Also, they will develop good skills in suckling the milk.

When can babies eat solid food?

It is generally recommended to give solid food after six months. After 7 to 8 months, the baby is naturally attracted to other foods. Also, you should wait to introduce any solid strictly until four months. It’s best to discuss the introduction of solids, their types, and their timing with your baby’s doctor.

How often should a 6-month-old eat?

A six-month-old baby can eat five to six times during the day. It also depends upon the resources of the food. If you have begun solids with breast milk or formula,  It’s highly recommended to discuss it with your doctor.

What if my baby won’t eat?

If your baby doesn’t eat, it may be sick, distracted, sleepless, or even full. You must assess the situation and try to resolve it. If it doesn’t go away, consult your doctor for the best advice.

What if my baby is still hungry?

If your baby is hungry, they will show hunger cues like pointing to food, breast, low crying, suckling, etc. With time, you will identify these cues. Also, tracking their feeding frequency, diapers, etc., will help you determine their feeding.

What if my baby has allergies or dietary restrictions?

If your baby has an allergy or dietary restrictions to some foods, you can avoid it. There are many substitutes, and discussing them with your doctor is the best.

Summary

Breastfeeding or formula feeding is completely the parents’ choice. You can go with the feeding system that is the most suitable for both you and your baby. Pay attention to feeding when combining feedings and solids. Every baby has unique requirements in different stages. So, identify their hunger cues and needs. It’s best to discuss it with your doctor for the soundest advice.

Both breastfeeding and formula feeding are intended to support the overall development of the baby. So, go through the guide, and you will gradually learn how to identify feeding needs. It’s okay to be confused; rely more on your baby’s signs and ask for expert advice when needed. Have a happy parenting.

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Peifen Chou RD

Medical reviewed by Peifen Chou, RD

Obstetrics and gynecology, lactation instructor, integrative medicine, aromatherapist, holistic nutritional consulting, functional medicine, and pet nutrition.

Peifen Chou RD

Medical reviewed by Peifen Chou, RD

Obstetrics and gynecology, lactation instructor, integrative medicine, aromatherapist, holistic nutritional consulting, functional medicine, and pet nutrition.

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