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How much pumped breast milk does your baby need? (Free printable)

You’ve worked hard pumping breast milk. Whether you use an electric pump, a manual pump, or you’re hand expressing, it takes a lot of time and energy to express and store milk. 

When the times comes to leave your baby (and the milk) with someone else for a few hours, how do you know how much breast milk to leave? Many charts and references for feeding babies are based on infant formula volumes. Guess what? Breastfed babies and formula fed babies need different amounts.

This can be a challenge to communicate with other caregivers. Many daycares refer to charts based on formula. They may apply the information to breast milk.

If this happens, there’s a risk of a breastfeeding (pumping) parent being asked to bring in a larger volume of milk than they can reasonably pump.

Below is a free downloadable PDF printable. It’s for caregivers of breastfed babies, including parents, nannies, daycares, and other family members. They can use it to know how much pumped breast milk to feed a baby.

So, how much breast milk does a baby need?

If you’re in a hurry and just want the highlights, below is the downloadable one page summary for breastfeeding parents to use themselves or share with another caregiver. It summarizes everything in this article in just a few bullet points. Otherwise, continue reading here for more details. 

Volume of pumped breast milk

From ages 1-6 months, exclusively breastfed babies drink between 1-1.25 ounces per hour. In other words, they drink 24-30 ounces in a 24-hour period.

If they’re at daycare for 8 hours, they may drink 8-10 ounces total.

If someone is directly breastfeeding, their baby is probably getting about the same amount. Of course, it can vary from one breastfeeding session to the next. There’s usually no need to measure it as long as the baby is growing well and there are no health concerns.

It’s worth noting that a baby’s needs in the early days are different. It can take their first few weeks for breast milk supply to establish and adjust to what a baby needs. This article just applies to when a baby is over 4-6 weeks old. And, to be clear, this refers to full-term babies. Premature babies may have different needs that need to be addressed on an individual basis with their health care team. 

 If at any time you’re concerned about a low milk supply, it’s a good idea to reach out for help. A pediatrician is a great place to start to ensure your baby is gaining weight appropriately. And, a lactation consultant (ideally with IBCLC certification) is another important part of your team to address any issues with breastfeeding, milk production, pumping, or pumping output itself. 

Volume of breast milk intake decreases after solids are introduced.

After solids are introduced at around age 6 months (see this post for more), the milk volume that a baby needs decreases. So, a 9-month-old baby who eats plenty of solids will likely drink fewer bottles or bottles with smaller amounts than when they were 3 months of age.

This may feel counterintuitive.

However, we can remember a few facts about babies and breast milk:
  • Solid foods also provide nutrition.
  • Babies aren’t growing as fast when they get a little older. Think about a newborn and how fast they outgrew their first outfit. A 6 month-old is still growing, of course, but at a slower rate. So the actual daily milk intake does not need to go up. 
  • A parent’s breast storage capacity and milk production don’t suddenly increase as their baby gets closer to a year old. In other words, a breastfeeding parent can still produce the amount of milk her baby needs as the baby grows. It’s just not going to be an unnecessarily huge amount.

And, if someone feeds their baby directly at the breast, they may not notice this decrease in intake at all. A baby who eats solids and directly breastfeeds (instead of drinking pumped or expressed milk) will also drink less than when they were younger and not yet eating solids.

However, this difference may be be subtle enough that the parent may not notice. It could be a few less swallows here, or a slightly shorter feed there. That being said, if the volume were measured and placed into collection bottles for another caregiver to feed, there would be a difference.

With a typical pumping schedule . . .

Of course, this is all general information. I share here so that parents can feel confident in knowing they can provide enough milk for their baby when they’re roughly in the 1-1.25 ounces of breast milk per hour range. 

For some perspective, if someone pumps every 3 hours (for example), each pumping session may result in about 3 ounces of milk. This would be the total amount of breast milk combined from both breasts. This is a normal and expected about. Of course, it can vary by time of day, but this is to give a general idea. 

Please use the printable PDF below if you need references or support in explaining this to another care provider.

Please note that individual babies may drink different amounts. Babies who sleep more at night may eat more during the day to reach that 24-30 ounces of total daily intake before solids are introduced. And, babies who feed more at night may drink less during the day. Etc!

(Again, this is different for babies who are fed formula).

Bottle feeding for breastfed babies

If a baby feeds directly from the breast and also drinks from bottles, there are ways to prevent confusion or bottle preference. For example, paced bottle feedings with a slow-flow nipple help prevent bottle preference. It mimics feeding at the breast by giving the baby frequent breaks and keeping the milk flow slow.

Paced bottle feeding is a wonderful way for caregivers to support a breastfeeding parent. It helps breastfeeding parents continue to breastfeed successfully.

Below are links to a few examples of paced feeding. (The PDF includes what to search on YouTube).

Individual bottle volumes may also differ between breastfed and formula fed babies. It’s uncommon for babies to drink more than three or four ounces of breast milk at a time. Some parents choose to leave behind even smaller bottles, like two ounces each. These small amounts make sense especially for daycares who have policies about throwing out any milk leftover in a bottle that a baby has started. 

Summary: Starting at age 1 month, the daily amount of milk a baby drinks typically does not increase.

Exclusively breastfed babies over age 1 month of age drink about 24-30 ounces of milk in a 24-hour day. Once a baby starts eating solid foods (usually around age 6 months), they gradually start to drink less milk until they’re about a year old. 

Lastly, I just want to offer a little encouragement to new moms starting their pumping journey. Whether you are exclusively pumping or just pumping occasionally, it’s a labor of love. There are a lot of resources to help, from lactation experts to support groups. There is also an entire community of people who have also been through this and are cheering you on. 

Please feel free to print and share this PDF below. The first is in color. The second is black and white for easier printing. The document was prepared by Katrina Weirauch-Engle, DO and Maya M. Mahmood, DO. References are included in the document.

And, for an overview on how human milk is made (and why certain medications are or are not safe with breastfeeding), see this post.

And, if you need a simple door tag for pumping privacy, consider my printable door sign.

Disclaimer: This is for information only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or feeding your baby. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Maya M. Mahmood, D.O., FAAP is a board-certified pediatrician and mom. She is passionate about parents having evidence-based information to help their families be healthier.  Subscribe to the newsletter for regular updates.

Photo by Jaye Haych on Unsplash.

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