The amount of milk to feed your baby depends on several factors. The age and weight of your baby, as well as the type of milk or formula you are feeding your child. This is because at different ages, your baby has different digestive needs, and because different sizes of child require different calorie levels in order to grow. Here are some guidelines to help you make good choices in feeding your little one.
Breastmilk or Formula or Cow's Milk?
During the first year of a baby's life, they cannot yet digest the proteins in cow's milk. As a result, you must choose between breast milk and formula to feed your child. Once the child is one, you can continue feeding him or her your breastmilk for as long as it works within your family. At this point, you can also introduce them to cow's milk, and see if their digestive system is mature enough to process it. Watch for rashes or diarrhea, as these are signs that the baby's system isn't doing well yet with the cow's dairy. You can continue to try every few months until you succeed.
How Much Should I Feed my Baby?
This is a question that really depends on weight, and what else they're eating. As a general rule, infants who are actively growing should have 100 calories (kilocalories) per kg of body weight. A kilogram is equal to 2.2lbs of body weight. So, divide your baby's weight in pounds by 2.2, multiply it by 100, and that should give you a guideline as far as how many daily calories your baby needs. Remember that this number will constantly move up, as they continue to grow.
Once your child is over 4-6 months, you can also begin adding other foods to your baby's repertoire, and this will allow you to cut down on the amount of milk they drink. This said, it is still important to give your child enough milk to keep them hydrated and well nourished. Though other foods are important to make the transition to solids, there is still no food as perfectly tailored to a baby's nutritional needs as breastmilk.
Health Benefits of Milk
Milk is a great source of calcium and other minerals in children. Breastmilk contains probiotics and antibodies designed to optimize the immune system of your child, and has many micronutrients that are hard to find elsewhere. The only thing lacking is vitamin D in breastmilk, so be sure your child either gets sun or supplements elsewhere. Formula has vitamin D, but lacks the antibodies that breastmilk can provide.