When it comes to infant nutrition, most of the time you can take a pass on calorie counting. No matter if you breastfeed, formula feed, or do a little bit of both, you can rest assured that these feeding methods will satisfy all your baby's dietary needs for the first six months.
However, there are some special circumstances in which you might want to pay closer attention to the number of calories your baby consumes which we’ll cover in this article!
The amount of calories your baby needs is largely based on your baby's size, age, and sex. Meaning that a newborn baby will require fewer calories and as they get older, and grow, their energy requirements (how many calories they need per day) will increase.
Here is an estimated calorie breakdown by age and sex developed by the USDA:
• 1 to 3 months: 472 to 572 calories per day
• 4 to 6 months: 548 to 645 calories per day
• 7 to 9 months: 668 to 746 calories per day
• 10 to 12 months: 793 to 844 calories per day
• 1 to 3 months: 438 to 521 calories per day
• 4 to 6 months: 508 to 593 calories per day
• 7 to 9 months: 608 to 678 calories per day
• 10 to 12 months: 717 to 768 calories per day
When Might Your Baby Need Higher Calories? 📈
For the first six months, most babies do not require any added calories on top of their standard diet of breast milk or formula. Although, there are a few situations where a baby may require a higher calorie intake when ill or underweight which we'll discuss more below!
Your Baby Was Born Prematurely 📆
Premature babies, born before 37 weeks require additional calories to help them reach a healthy body weight, with the needs of older preterm babies (34 to 37 weeks) differing from earlier preterm babies (less than 34 weeks).
Although, getting any preterm baby to consume more calories can be challenging as they sometimes lack the neurological functions needed to eat well.
But don't give up on breastfeeding! As your baby gets older and continues to develop, feedings will get easier and your little one will likely start to consume more.
Your Baby’s Weight is Too Low for Their Age ⚖️
Low birth weight is often a result of being born preterm, although this isn't always the case. Full-term infants can also be born underweight (under 2500 g at birth). The number of calories needed will vary on a case-to-case basis, based on factors like body weight or existing illness.
Your Baby Has a Particular Illness ❤️🩹
Certain illnesses can make maintaining or gaining weight hard.
A baby may need more calories if they are dealing with any of the following conditions:
• Breathing difficulties
• Heart disease
• Conditions involving the endocrine system
• Metabolic disorders
Each baby's needs are different, so discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider and they can determine whether supplemental feedings are necessary for your infant.
How to Increase Your Baby's Calorie Intake 📈
It is important to consult your pediatrician for guidance on increasing your baby's caloric intake, beforemaking any changes to their diet.
Even though it may seem like an easy solution, adding sugar to breast milk or formula to increase caloric density is not recommended and could be harmful to your baby's health.
This is because adding sugar can lead to infant obesity, and encourage unhealthy eating habits as their palate develops a preference for sugary foods. Thankfully, there are ways to increase the caloric density of breast milk and formula without adding sugar.
For example, sometimes it's recommended to use human milk fortifier, which is a supplement that can be mixed into the feedings of breast fed babies, to provide them with extra calories, as well as protein, iron, calcium, and various vitamins.
If your baby is formula fed, you can choose a formula that is higher in calories or adjust the ratio of formula powder to water.
How Many Calories are in Formula? 🍼
In general, standard cow, goat, or special formula has 20 calories per ounce or 65-70 calories per 100 ml. This is because each formula is regulated by law to have everything needed to satisfy all your baby's dietary needs. Special high-calorie formulas designed for premature babies have up to 30 calories per ounce.
How Many Calories are in Breast Milk? 🤱
The calories received per feed and during each feeding will vary, but in general, normal breast milk has around 19-22 calories per ounce, and approximately 60-75 calories per 100 ml, which as you can see is very similar to formula.
Near the end of a feeding is when breast milk is richer in fat making it more calorie dense, which is why it is important to make sure that your baby is getting your hindmilk!
How Many Calories Should Come From Eating Solid Foods? 🍽️
Beginning at 6 months, introducing your baby to solid foods should be done gradually, meaning the number of calories coming from solid food will increase over time.
To start, you can offer them 1-2 tbsp of food each day, and increase the amount as your baby grows and gets more comfortable eating solids.
By the 12-month mark, your little one will likely be eating 3 small meals a day in addition to breast milk or formula.
The exact amount of calories they consume doesn't matter and isn't super important, as long as they are gaining weight appropriately and their nutritional needs are being met.
Looking at the calories in formula isn't usually necessary, as infant formulas are designed to meet all of your baby's nutritional needs.
Here is a simple breakdown of the calories in our formula to be used if keeping track of your baby's calorie intake is medically necessary and recommended by your baby's pediatrician.
Parents, you have enough on your plate already, so there is no need to add tracking your baby's calories to your never-ending to-do list. This practice is only required in rare medically necessary circumstances. In most cases, you can rest assured that your baby is getting enough calories from breast milk or formula!
Please be aware that this information is based on general trends in babies, and it is not medical advice. Your doctor should be your first source of information and advice when considering any changes to your child’s formula and when choosing your child’s formula. Always consult your pediatrician before making any decisions about your child’s diet or if you notice any changes in your child.
Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby because breast milk provides your child with all the essential nutrients they need for growth and development. Please consult your pediatrician if your child requires supplemental feeding.