Q: How much milk will my baby drink while I am gone?
Your baby will likely need between nine and 14 ounces for an eight-hour workday with reasonable commute time. Research on breastfeeding babies has shown they eat 24-32 ounces per 24 hours, which translates to 1 to 1.5 ounces per hour. Using these numbers as a guide, multiply the number of hours you’ll be away from baby by 1 and/or 1.5, and plan your total ounces and bottle amounts accordingly.
Another way to plan bottle sizes and total ounces needed is to count how many times your baby nurses in an average 24 hour period, and divide that number into 24-32 ounces.
Here is an example:
Your baby nurses ten times in an average day. 24 ounces ÷ 10 feedings = 2.4 ounces per bottle. On the higher end, 32 ounces ÷ 10 feedings = 3.2 ounces per feeding. So if your baby regularly nurses ten times in a day, they would likely need 2.4-3.5 ounces per bottle.
Unlike formula, breast milk volumes stay the same as baby grows, so the 1 to 1.5 ounce per hour guideline can be used for the entire first year of life. Note that babies who sleep through the night need to get the same amount of ounces in fewer feedings per day, so their breast milk needs may be slightly higher per bottle than those babies who nurse during the night.
Encourage your baby’s caregiver to mimic the feeding patterns your baby exhibits when with you. If your baby shows signs of hunger to nurse with you every two hours, your caregiver should look for those signs of hunger and bottle-feed following a similar routine. Pre-filling individual bottles for the caregiver with the volume of breast milk you want your baby to have (instead of sending a large amount in one big container or many still-frozen bags) can help prevent overfeeding.
Going back to work and breastfeeding? This question is part of Breastfeed Chicago’s Ultimate Back-to-Work Breastfeeding Guide. Read the full guide to help the transition go smoothly!