As the mother of a 4- to 6-month-old, you probably feel like half your day is spent feeding your little one and the other half worrying about his growth. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months of life. Some moms choose to formula feed and some choose to start solid foods at 4 months of age. Whatever your decision, it is helpful to understand how many calories your little one needs so he has the energy for everyday activities and normal growth and development.
Estimated Energy Requirements for Boys
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, your little one’s caloric needs depend upon his current size and size at birth, age, sex, metabolic rate, genetics, rate of growth and physical activity level. The USDA has set estimated energy requirements for infants 4 to 6 months of age. A 4-month-old male weighing 14.8 pounds requires 548 calories per day. A 5-month-old male weighing 16.1 pounds needs 596 calories per day, and a 6-month-old male weighing 17.4 pounds needs 645 calories per day.
Estimated Energy Requirements for Girls
Gender factors into the caloric needs of babies, so the USDA has established separate guidelines for baby girls compared to baby boys. A 4-month-old female weighing 13.4 pounds should get 508 calories per day. A 5-month-old girl at 14.8 pounds needs 553 calories per day, while a 6-month-old girl weighing 15.9 pounds needs 593 calories.
By 4 to 6 months of age, your little one probably has himself on a fairly set feeding schedule. A 6-month-old formula-fed baby will have four to five bottles containing 6 to 8 ounces of formula a day. These, however, are general guidelines and even the American Academy of Pediatrics states it’s impossible to state exactly how much and how often your baby needs to eat. Caloric needs even vary from day to day. Fortunately, babies are good at letting you know when they are hungry and stopping when their tummies are full. If your baby stops eating or starts to fidget, he’s probably had enough. If he sucks down his bottle and is smacking his lips, offer him more.
If you are breastfeeding, it is a little more challenging to know how many calories your baby is ingesting. Breastfed babies should be fed on demand. Your newborn probably fed every two to three hours, but at 4 to 6 months of age, that duration probably lengthened with a more established pattern emerging. This can change as your baby experiences growth spurts and teething. Allow your little one to feed when he indicates hunger and nurse for as long as he desires. If he seems satisfied, you can hear him swallowing while he nurses, he’s gaining weight and you’re changing lots of wet diapers, then rest assured he’s getting the nutrients and calories he needs.
It can be so easy to forget how tiny your baby was at birth because birth weight typically doubles by 6 months of age. Your pediatrician will periodically check your infant’s weight, height and head circumference to ensure he is growing properly. This is probably the best indicator of whether or not he’s getting enough calories each day. Between 4 and 7 months of age, your baby should gain 1 to 1 ½ pounds a month and sprout up 2 to 3 inches. Breastfed babies tend to be chunkier than formula-fed babies for the first 6 months. After that, the tide turns and breastfed babies become leaner than formula-fed babies from 9 months to 1 year.