How often should I feed my baby?

Parents and caregivers can often feel overwhelmed and unsure as they transition their baby from milk feeds through the introduction of solids to family meals. In this blog, you’ll learn how often you should feed your baby.

During infancy, parents and caregivers are encouraged to use a responsive feeding approach and feed on demand. This means you are attuned to you baby’s feeding cues, and when they communicate that they’re hungry, you respond in a timely manner by feeding them.

For most of your baby’s first year of life, milk feeds (i.e., breastmilk and/or formula) will be their main source of nutrition. Until your baby is approximately 6 months in age, they will get all the nutrition they need from milk feeds. However, from 6 months onwards, your baby will not be able to get all of the nutrients they need for adequate growth and development, from milk alone (particularly iron, zinc, and energy). Therefore, your baby will need to start eating solid foods.

In Australia, it is recommended that solid foods are introduced to babies when they show signs of readiness – usually around the age of 6 months, but not before 4 months. As babies transition through the introduction of solids period, the frequency and quantity of milk feeds will gradually decrease, whilst the frequency and quantity of solid food consumed will gradually increase.

The section below (Feeding Schedules be Age) provides general advice on how often you should feed your baby, and guides you through the transition from exclusive milk feeds, through the introduction of solids, to family meals.

Feeding Schedules by Age

Babies aged 0-5 months

Newborn babies typically feed 8-12 times in a 24-hour period, which equates to every 2-3 hours. Breastfed babies will typically require more feeds than a formula-fed baby because breastmilk is digested quicker. During a 24-hour period, your baby might feed more often within a shorter period of time (e.g., cluster feeding during the evening) and/or they might have a longer stretch of time between 1-2 feeds (e.g., overnight). As your baby gets older, they will settle into a more predictable feeding pattern. They will also tend to feed less frequently (i.e., every 3-4 hours) because their stomach capacity will increase.

Babies aged 6 months

At 6 months of age, milk feeds will still be your baby’s primary source of nutrition, and you should continue feeding on demand. However, around the age of 6 months, you can now introduce solid foods to your baby. To begin, offer a small amount of iron-rich food (e.g., a couple of teaspoons of puree) at a single point during the day, after a milk feed.

You can offer your baby their solid meal whenever it suits. Choose a time when your baby is well-rested and in a happy and playful mood; and when you are in a calm state. This will help your baby learn that mealtimes are a positive experience, and ensure that they have energy and enthusiasm to learn how to eat. Many parents and caregivers find that offering a solid meal in the morning or at midday works best; and it provides more time in the day to watch for signs of an allergic reaction.  

When first starting solids, your baby may only eat a very small amount. Some babies can take several months to develop an interest in solids, so don’t worry too much if your child doesn’t take to eating solids straight away! This period is about your baby getting familiar with the eating process.

Babies aged 7-8 months

Between 7-8 months, milk feeds will continue to be your baby’s primary source of nutrition, and you should continue feeding on demand. Around 7 months, you should offer your baby two solid meals per day, after their milk feeds. Around 8 months, you should offer you baby 2-3 solid meals per day; and you can start experimenting with providing solid meals before milk feeds. Do this gradually, by starting with one point in the day and offering a solid meal before a milk feed. You can offer your baby their 2-3 solid meals whenever it suits best.

Babies aged 9 months

At 9 months, milk feeds will continue to be your baby’s primary source of nutrition, and you should continue feeding on demand. You should now offer your baby three solid meals per day (e.g., breakfast, lunch, and dinner). By 9 months, your baby should be starting to eat a greater quantity of solids. If your baby doesn’t seem very interested in eating solids or they aren’t consuming much, it might be because they’re filling up on milk feeds first. Continue experimenting with providing solid meals before milk feeds, aiming to offer solids first at two time points in the day.

Babies aged 10-11 months

Between 10-11 months, milk feeds are still your baby’s primary source of nutrition, and you should continue feeding on demand. You should now offer your baby three solid meals per day (i.e., breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and 1-2 solid snacks. Solid snacks can be introduced gradually, first starting with one point in the day (e.g., mid-morning), and then adding a second point in the day (e.g., mid-afternoon) as your baby nears 11 months. Continue experimenting with providing solid meals and snacks before milk feeds.

From 12 months

Hooray, your baby is now a toddler! From 12 months of age, food becomes your child’s primary source of nutrition. You should now offer your child three solid meals and two solid snacks each day (i.e., breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, and dinner). Around 12 months of age, you should be offering your child most of their solid meals and snacks before milk feeds. Structured mealtimes become more important now, as do family meals.

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