When it comes to feeding a 6 week old baby, one of the most common questions new parents have is how much milk or formula their little one needs at each feeding. At 6 weeks, babies still have very small tummies and need to eat frequently throughout the day. Knowing how much to offer your baby per feeding is important to ensure they are getting adequate nutrition to grow and develop.
The general rule for feeding a 6 week old
As a general rule of thumb, most 6 week old babies take in around 2-3 ounces per feeding. However, every baby is different. Some healthy, growing 6 week olds may eat less, while others may eat more at each feeding. The most important thing is feeding your baby when they show signs of hunger and allowing them to eat until satisfied.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, exclusively breastfed babies between 1 and 6 months old take in around 25 oz (750 mL) of breastmilk per day on average. However for formula fed infants, recommendations are a little different.
Formula feeding recommendations
For parents who formula feed, many pediatricians recommend offering around 2-3 ounces of formula every 2-3 hours in a 24 hour period. This averages out to about 24-32 ounces or 720-960 mL per day.
It’s important to keep in mind that these are just general guidelines. Some bottle fed 6 week olds may take in more or less than the daily recommended amount. The key is watching your baby for hunger/fullness cues and not forcing them to finish a bottle if they seem satisfied with less.
Typical amount per feeding at 6 weeks old
- Breastfed babies: 2-3 ounces (60-90 mL) per feeding
- Formula fed babies: 2-4 ounces (60-120 mL) per feeding
Let’s look more closely at feeding breastfed and formula fed 6 week olds.
Breastfed 6 week olds
For exclusively breastfed babies, watching your baby for hunger and fullness cues is especially important. Some lactation consultants recommend offering the breast for 10-15 minutes on each side per feeding.
However, the amount of breastmilk a baby takes in can vary from feeding to feeding. Growth spurts, cluster feedings, and distraction can all affect intake at this age. Feeding on demand is recommended.
If you are concerned your breastfed baby isn’t eating enough, talk to your pediatrician. They can do a weight check to ensure your 6 week old is gaining weight appropriately. Pumping after feedings can also give you an idea of how much breastmilk your baby takes in.
Typical breastmilk intake at 6 weeks old is around:
- 2-5 ounces per feeding
- 20-35 ounces per day on average
But keep in mind, all babies are different. Focus on your baby’s hunger/fullness cues, weight gain, and wet/dirty diapers rather than ounces consumed.
Signs your breastfed 6 week old is hungry
- Moving head side to side
- Opening and closing mouth
- Sticking out tongue
- Rooting reflex
- Putting hands to mouth
- Increased alertness or activity
Signs your breastfed 6 week old is full
- Turning away/falling asleep
- Decreased sucking
- Releasing breast
- Spitting up
- Relaxed hands and body
Formula fed 6 week olds
For formula fed infants, most pediatricians recommend working up to taking around 4-6 ounces every 2-3 hours by 6 weeks old. Large feedings spaced too far apart can lead to the baby gorging, which may cause spit up or vomiting.
Aim to feed your formula fed 6 week old around 6-8 times in 24 hours. Watch for early hunger signals. When finishing a bottle, some formula fed babies may want to keep sucking for comfort – try using a pacifier instead to avoid overfeeding.
Here are general formula feeding guidelines for a 6 week old:
- Feed on demand, roughly every 2-3 hours
- Offer 2-4 ounces per feeding
- 24-32 ounces per day on average
- No more than 32 ounces per day
Keep in mind that every baby is unique. Your pediatrician can help you determine the right amount of formula for your 6 week old based on weight, height, and overall health.
Signs your formula fed 6 week old is hungry
- Rooting reflex
- Increased alertness
- Bringing hands to mouth
Signs your formula fed 6 week old is full
- Decreased or stopping sucking
- Spitting out nipple
- Relaxed body and hands
- Turning head away
Factors that affect intake for a 6 week old
While the above recommendations are general guidelines, a number of factors can affect just how much a 6 week old eats at each feeding, including:
1. Growth spurts
Growth spurts are periods of rapid growth when babies need to eat more calories. During these times, your 6 week old may seem hungrier and nurse longer/more often at each feeding. Pay attention to their cues and let them dictate intake.
2. Daytime vs nighttime
Babies tend to eat more during the day and less at night. Night feedings don’t need to be as large. Follow your baby’s lead.
When sick with a cold, ear infection, or other illness, babies may eat less than normal. Focus on keeping baby hydrated.
Teething discomfort may also decrease appetite. Your 6 week old is unlikely to be teething yet, but be aware of this factor as they get older.
Medications like antacids can occasionally affect feeding tolerance. Check with your pediatrician.
6. Feeding technique
Improper bottle or breastfeeding technique can impact milk transfer and intake per feeding. Make sure to stay seated upright when feeding and keep baby in a good latch/position.
At 6 weeks, babies are becoming more alert. Noisy environments can distract them while eating. Feed in a calm, quiet space.
Babies with reflux may eat smaller, more frequent meals to help keep food down. Talk to your pediatrician if you think your baby has reflux.
Premature infants have different nutritional needs. Work with your pediatrician to determine an appropriate feeding schedule and amounts for a preemie 6 week old.
10. Medical conditions
Certain medical conditions like cleft lip/palate, heart defects, or food allergies can also impact how much a 6 week old eats per feeding. Consult your pediatrician if concerned.
Tips for feeding a 6 week old the right amount
Following safe feeding practices can help ensure your 6 week old consumes adequate nutrition without overfeeding:
- Pay attention to hunger/fullness cues vs the clock
- Pace bottle feedings to reduce intake of air
- Burp halfway through feeds and at the end
- Avoid forcing baby to finish a bottle
- Hold baby semi-upright during feeds
- Feed in a quiet, distraction-free environment
- Don’t prop bottles
- Respond early to hunger signals
- Offer smaller, more frequent feedings if needed
Signs your 6 week old isn’t eating enough
While most babies won’t overfeed, some parents worry their 6 week old isn’t taking in enough milk. Here are some signs your baby may not be eating adequately:
- Poor weight gain
- Excessive sleepiness or lethargy
- Few wet diapers
- Dry mouth
- Weak cry
- Disinterest in feeding
If your 6 week old shows any of these signs, contact your pediatrician right away. An urgent weight check can determine if your baby is not getting enough to eat.
When to talk to the pediatrician
While the general guidelines are 2-4 ounces per feeding for a 6 week old, all babies are unique. It’s important to have open communication with your pediatrician about your baby’s nutritional needs.
Consult your pediatrician if you notice any of the following in your 6 week old:
- Poor weight gain
- Consistentlyeating much more or less than guidelines
- Difficulty breathing while feeding
- Reflux or spit up after many feedings
- Falling asleep at most feedings
- Colic symptoms during/after eating
- Congestion interfering with feeding
- Refusal to eat
Your pediatrician can help assess if there is an underlying issue impacting your baby’s intake or ability to feed.
FAQs about 6 week old feeding
How often should a 6 week old eat?
Most 6 week olds need 8-12 feedings per day or about every 2-3 hours during daytime hours. Nighttime feedings are usually 1-2 times.
How long should a 6 week old feed for?
Feeding times can vary but expect sessions to last around 15-20 minutes or longer. Let your 6 week old feed for as long as needed until showing signs of fullness.
Should I wake my 6 week old to feed at night?
If your baby sleeps longer stretches at night but is gaining weight well, you generally don’t need to wake to feed. Follow your doctor’s guidance.
Is my 6 week old eating enough?
As long as your baby is having adequate wet/dirty diapers, gaining weight consistently, and seems satisfied, they are likely eating enough. Check with your pediatrician if concerned.
Why does my 6 week old eat less some days?
Occasional decreases in appetite are normal as long as baby is healthy overall. Possible reasons include growth slowing down, hot weather, distracted feedings, or upcoming illness.
How do I know if my baby is still hungry?
Signs include increased alertness, rooting, hands to mouth, moving head side to side, and giving hunger cues even after finishing a bottle or nursing session.
Is it ok to mix breastmilk and formula?
While some babies take both breastmilk and formula, it’s generally recommended to not mix the two in a single feeding. Talk to your pediatrician to decide what’s right for your baby.
Should I give my 6 week old water or juice?
No, 6 week olds only need breastmilk or formula. Don’t give water, juice, or solid foods until advised by your doctor, usually around 6 months.
What if my 6 week old prefers one breast?
It’s common for young babies to prefer one side, especially if they have a strong latch on that side. Try different holds to encourage equal feeding on both breasts.
Is my baby getting enough breastmilk?
Signs of adequate breastmilk intake include: hearing swallowing, seeing milk at the corner of baby’s mouth, adequate wet/dirty diapers, weight gain, and overall contentment.
Feeding a 6 week old the right amount helps ensure they get the nutrition they need to continue growing and developing properly. While general guidelines suggest breastfed babies take in around 2-3 ounces per feeding (20-35 oz/day) and formula fed infants consume around 2-4 ounces per feeding (24-32 oz/day), every baby is different.
Focus on hunger/fullness cues, adequate weight gain, and wet/dirty diapers rather than sticking to a strict amount per feeding. Your pediatrician can provide guidance on your specific baby’s needs. With patience and practice, you’ll learn to feed your 6 week old the just the right amount to help them thrive.