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Feeding 101: Baby Not Eating As Much Formula As Usual

It's easy to get disheartened when there's a change in your baby's appetite, especially after you've finally nailed a feeding routine.

With that said, try not to panic: appetite fluctuations are completely normal in most babies and can happen to anyone! The key is to figure out what might have caused the shift. This will help you understand your little one's nutritional needs, keeping both you and your baby happy.

In today's guide, we will take a close look at the issue of your baby not eating as much formula as usual. We will uncover the most common factors that may affect your little one's appetite and highlight concerns that might require immediate action.


How Much Formula Do Babies Need to Drink?

Understanding the average amount of formula your baby should consume daily can help you keep track of their appetite and healthy growth. With that said, keep in mind that your little one's needs will change as they grow.

Both formula-fed and breastfed babies will start eating differently when reaching new stages of development. This means you will need to adjust your feeding routine accordingly in order to support your baby's growth.

Your Newborn Baby's Appetite at a Glance

Now, let's start with newborns. On average, they consume about 1.5-3 ounces (45-90 milliliters) of formula milk every 2-3 hours. As they continue to grow, they will be able to take in more milk, and the amount of formula they drink will gradually increase.

At about 2 months old, your little one may drink about 4-5 ounces (120-150 milliliters) of formula milk every 3-4 hours.

After turning 4 months old, your baby may drink about 4-6 ounces (120-180 milliliters) at each feeding. The quantities will depend on how often they eat, as not all babies have the same feeding patterns.

Your 6-Month-old Baby's Appetite at a Glance

By 6 months, your little one may drink 6-8 ounces (180-230 milliliters) of formula milk. They take the bottle about 4-5 times a day, allowing them to drink enough milk to achieve their developmental milestones at this age.

Keep in mind that these are just average numbers. Not all babies will consume these exact amounts of milk, so it's crucial to watch your little one's appetite and build your feeding routines accordingly. As long as your baby experiences a healthy weight gain, you shouldn't worry about these formula quantities too much.


Why is My Formula-fed Baby Eating Less? Common Causes of Reduced Appetite

Your baby's appetite depends on multiple factors, including:

  • Environmental cues

  • Internal hunger signals

  • Your feeding routines and schedule

  • The taste of the formula

  • Your baby's health, and so on.

Naturally, with such an array of factors affecting your little one's feedings, their appetite may change occasionally. However, when you are familiar with the potential causes of reduced appetite, it's easier for you to get your baby's feeding back on track. Now, let's take a close look at what might affect your baby's eating habits.

1) Growth Spurts 📏

Here's the deal: your baby's growth isn't always consistent. The developmental process resembles a wavy line, not just a straight one. Occasionally, periods of rapid growth occur, and these growth spurts can affect your baby's appetite.

Their little bodies are working hard on building new tissues and neural connections while exploring the world around them and learning new skills. Your baby reaches new developmental milestones and often is more fascinated by their newfound abilities than feeding, leading their appetite to become somewhat suppressed.

2) Weak Sucking 🤱

In some cases, young babies may start eating less simply because they don't suck on the nipple hard enough. This often happens in young babies who start with a strong, almost vigorous suck at birth and lose it over time. Weak sucking is also common among prematurely born babies. Keep in mind this may occur during both breastfeeding and formula feeding.

If you notice that your baby doesn't latch onto the nipple as well as they used to, can't empty the bottle/breast, or takes too long to feed (more than 30 minutes), it's crucial to talk to a doctor immediately. You need to work as a team to help your baby with their sucking strength and ensure they are gaining weight well.

3) Introducing Solid Foods 🥣

This phase can be quite exciting for your little one as they discover new flavors, textures, and even colors. That's why babies often reduce their reliance on formula and start eating less. Such behavior is completely normal.

In fact, when babies pay more attention to solid foods instead of the formula bottle, this is considered to be a positive sign in their development!

Be careful, though: if you introduce too many solid foods at once, your baby may refuse bottle feeding and not be able to digest enough solid foods for healthy growth. That's why it's best to transition to solid food gradually.

4) Teething 🦷

Teething is another common cause of reduced appetite, and this can be easily explained. During teething, the baby's gums swell and feel tender to the touch. Naturally, this leads to discomfort or even pain. Many babies become fussy, lose sleep, and refuse bottle feeding.

Luckily, there are things you can do to make this period a bit more bearable for your little one. You can try chilled teething toys, special teething gels, giving your baby a gentle gum massage, and, of course, lots of cuddles for comfort.

5) Colic 💧

Colic, or, in layman's terms, excessive crying, is something that occurs in almost every baby's life. Colic may occur due to food intolerances, the lack of healthy bacteria in your baby's digestive tract, stress, infrequent burping, or simply because your baby's digestive system isn't fully developed yet.

Regardless of the reason, colic can cause a great deal of discomfort. And when your baby is in pain, it's only natural that they would start eating less. In many cases, babies who experience colic may show irregular feeding behaviors, decreased appetite, and less rhythmic sucking.

You can help your colic baby by:

  • Giving them a warm bath to relax the tummy muscles

  • Swaddling them tightly

  • Rubbing their belly

  • Feeding them in a different position (upright, for example).

If these symptoms persist or are accompanied by other symptoms, it's best to turn to a medical professional for guidance.

A quick note: please keep in mind that your baby might have reduced appetite due to discomfort or pain caused by something other than colic. The signs your baby may be experiencing pain or discomfort include crying, a furrowed brow, grunting, changes in their sleep patterns, breath-holding, etc. A sick baby would also often have sunken eyes. That's when you should seek medical attention for your little one right away.


Common Signs of a Well-Fed Baby

Now, all babies are different, but how do you know your child is eating enough and getting all their nutrients?

That's when you should look for the signs your baby is well-fed. They include:

  • Good weight gain related to age and height

  • Looking happy and satisfied

  • Peeing and pooping regularly

  • Looking satisfied after each meal

As opposed to breastfeeding, when a baby can control how much breast milk they drink at a time, with formula feeding or introducing solid foods, all the control rests in the hands of parents or caretakers.

Thus, it's important to be aware of the fullness clues to prevent overfeeding your baby. Those signs include closing their mouth, relaxing their hands, turning the face away from the bottle or spoon, pushing the food or bottle away, etc.


Signs Your Formula-Fed Baby is Underfeeding

Of all the signs you should look for, these are probably the most important. Noticing that your child isn't eating enough calls for action, so don't hesitate to talk to your baby's pediatrician if you see that:

  • Your child would rather sleep than eat

  • There's dark pee or orange crystals in their diapers

  • They won't latch onto your breast when breastfeeding or might even pull away

  • They are fussy right after feedings

  • They wet fewer diapers

Describing this to your baby's doctor will help you both determine why your baby eats less and find a suitable solution!


Why is My Baby Only Eating a Little Bit at a Time?

If your baby eats just a little bit of formula at a time, this might mean they have developed a snacking feeding pattern. This often happens when babies are offered a bottle too soon (every 1-2 hours). Their body gets used to more frequent feedings and takes a bit of formula at a time to sustain itself for about 1-2 hours.

Other potential causes of snacking feeding may include insufficient sleep and depending on feedings for sleep. Your little one might also drink a little bit of formula at a time when the bottle ring is screwed on too tightly. This makes sucking more challenging for them, so they can't physically drink much formula during a feeding session.


Is it Normal for Babies to Eat Less Some Days?

If your baby consumes less infant formula than the average recommended amount, there's no reason to panic. The amount of milk will vary from baby to baby. Some infants require more, and others can drink less formula without experiencing growth issues.

The key here is recognizing your little one's patterns and feeding them when they want it. Keep in mind that many babies feed little but often. So, if you see that the bottle remains unfinished after a feeding session, try not to worry about it too much.


What to Do if Your Newborn Doesn't Want to Eat, Just Sleep

Most newborn babies sleep for about 8-9 hours during the day and 8 hours at night, waking up every 3 hours on average to feed; with that said, each case is unique. You'll know your baby sleeps too much if they sleep through feedings or spend more than 19 hours sleeping in total per day.

Some of the Most Common Reasons Behind Sleeping Too Much Include:

  • Going through a growth spurt

  • Not getting enough milk and nutrients

  • Dealing with an infection

  • In rare cases, having a heart or breathing disorder or jaundice may also affect their sleep pattern

If you think your baby sleeps too much, it's best to consult a medical professional. They can check if your little one has any other symptoms that might give you a reason for concern.

Strategies to Encourage Your Baby to Feed Instead of Sleep:

Firstly, try feeding your baby every time they show hunger cues like stirring, mouth open, moving arms, hand-to-mouth movements, yawning or licking.

You can also offer them a formula bottle or breast milk every 2 hours, and if your baby is sleeping, gently wake them up to feed to ensure an adequate calorie intake. Don't forget to also keep a log of their sleep schedule for a few days.

Finally, make sure your baby isn't too cold or hot when they're down for a rest because, just like adults, this can disturb their sleep.


When to Worry About Your Baby Eating Less Formula than Usual

We don't mean to cause panic, but there are scenarios when immediate action is needed. Make sure to reach out to a healthcare provider right away if you notice any of the following signs:

1) Your baby seems very lethargic or unresponsive.

2) They are 14 days old and have not retained their birth weight.

3) Their weight gain is significantly lower than what is expected for their age and height.

4) They don't seem calmer or satisfied after feedings.

5) They are producing less than 4 wet diapers per day.


Wrapping Up: Baby Not Eating As Much Formula As Usual

For a new parent, even the little things can cause worry. So we understand how hard it is, especially when you think your little one doesn't seem to eat enough.

However, it's crucial to remember that some fluctuations in appetite are normal. Babies grow and feed at different rates, so they may have different nutritional needs.

What's important is keeping an eye on your little one and making sure they aren't experiencing any other symptoms. If you notice anything unusual alongside appetite loss, it's best to talk to your baby's pediatrician to eliminate any concerning scenarios.

Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for babies. Before altering your baby's diet or feeding routine, consult your healthcare provider for personalized recommendations. The information in this article is strictly for informational purposes and is not a substitute for medical advice. 

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