Drinking less milk than you expect
It can be concerning when your baby doesn't seem to be feeding enough, but a lactation expert says not to freak out just yet.
Bottle fed baby

It's much easier with bottle feeding to tell how much your baby is drinking, compared to breast feeding. However, this can be cause for concern when you think your baby isn't drinking enough. 

Usually parents worry unnecessarily over this, as their baby is getting enough milk for healthy growth, but may be drinking less for one of the below reasons:

  • Illness
  • Snack feeding
  • Distracted baby
  • Tiredness
  • Excessive night feeds
  • Milk content - depending on additives in the milk, the energy content might be higher meaning your baby needs less
  • Solids given before bottle feeds can decrease a baby’s appetite for milk
  • Too much solid foods. 

Some parents, and even health professionals, just have an unrealistic expectation of how much milk a baby needs. Don't fret if your baby is not drinking the amount recommended on the side of the can as every baby is different and they all grow at different rates. There are other factors that come into play such as prior growth pattern and genetic endowment. Also, if you are feeding your baby solids they may prefer solids to formula, but it doesn't necessarily provide them with all the nutrients they need.

If your baby is truly underfeeding, or you're unsure, looking out for the following:

  • Check for signs of illness. If you notice any unusual signs like fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, irritability, rashes, coughing, breathing difficulties, or infrequent wet nappies have baby examined by a doctor.
  • Check for signs that baby is well nourished. If he appears well nourished he’s probably drinking enough formula.
  • View our article The right amount of formula to check if he’s in the ball park regarding formula requirements.
  • When feeding, look at your baby and not the bottle. Respond appropriately to his feeding cues. Stop when he wants to stop and don’t try to force him to continue.
  • Cease solids if your baby is younger than six months of age.
  • Offer solids 10-15 minutes after bottle feeds and not before or between feeds. Limit the amount of solids you offer your baby until milk intake improves.
  • Don’t compare your baby to others who are different owing to their genetic make-up and growth pattern.
This article was written by Rowena Bennett and adaptedfor Kidpsot, New Zealand's favourite parenting resource for Early Life Nutrition.
Breastfeeding is best for babies and provides many benefits. Combined breast and bottle feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of your own breast milk. Always consult your doctor, midwife or health care professional for advice about feeding your baby. This post is part of the Early Life Nutrition story.
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