Don’t feel stressed if you see your baby not drinking milk! Instead, try these 4 effective tricks to help your baby take more milk, whether from the bottle or nursing.
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It’s the worry that plagues every mother: what to do when she notices her baby not drinking milk all of a sudden.
Whether breastfed or bottle-fed, you might have noticed that your baby has been drinking less milk than he used to. Sometimes it’s as much as half the amount he normally takes, even after a full 11-12 hours of sleep.
He might refuse and push the bottle away when you offer it, or squirm and wriggle during a nursing session. Any time you offer milk again, he starts crying and screaming. It’s been a few days, and both you and baby are feeling stressed, dreading each feeding.
The weird thing is that he’s not teething, nor is he feeling sick. You haven’t offered any new formula, and he’s even pooping and peeing just fine. What can you do to get your baby to take more milk?
How to handle a baby not drinking milk
You’re definitely not alone. At some point, all three of my kids refused drinking milk, whether with nursing or through a bottle. Despite having always had a healthy appetite for milk, they all entered a stage where they refused to drink.
I tried offering milk in various ways, from nursing to a bottle, from sippy cup to a regular cup, but they refused them all. In fact, it seemed they preferred to play and do anything else but eat.
By the time I had my twins, I knew this stage was normal and would pass. Still, having a baby not drinking milk is enough to stress even second- and third-time moms. Below are simple but effective tricks that helped me get through this stage and help my babies drink milk once more:
1. Check how much milk your baby should be getting
In a baby’s first few days and weeks, you were on a race to regain lost baby weight and make sure he’s gaining in pounds and ounces. And it’s true—babies grow the most in their first few months.
But they also hit a stage where they don’t need to gain quite as much weight.
Their level of growth isn’t as fast as the newborn stage, and they’re also more interested in hitting other milestones. That’s why you’ll often find a baby would rather spend his time learning to crawl than eating. And eating solid food can provide the calories he used to only get from drinking milk.
So, even though your baby is drinking less milk than you’re used to offering, he might just be reaching a new stage where he doesn’t need as many calories from milk.
The best way to find out is to reach out to your pediatrician to see how much milk your baby should be eating. You might be stressing about something that isn’t even an issue.
2. Offer milk before solids (or offer it much later)
Introducing solids is one of my favorite stages. I actually liked blending purees and trying new combinations, and even created a printable to track which foods I introduced.
Well… my kids were also just as excited. So excited, in fact, that they preferred eating solids over milk. After all, milk was nothing new, whereas eating from a spoon seemed more exciting.
So I switched things up: when I had a baby not drinking milk, I made sure to offer the milk before eating solids.
This way, I knew they had the appetite to finish a nursing session or bottle before eating solids. I figured they would finish the solids, even after having drank the milk, whereas they might not drink as much after having eaten solids.
Another option is to offer the milk much later after your baby has eaten solids. It can be too much to drink milk and eat solids in one sitting. You might have better luck giving your baby milk an hour after eating solids when you know he has the appetite for it.
Want a way to track the different solid food and drinks you offer? Join my newsletter and download my Baby Food Diary printable! You can record the date, food, reactions and the number of times your baby tried it. Get it below—at no cost to you:
3. Feed your baby in between longer intervals
One of the best decisions I made was to feed my babies after they woke up, not to feed them to sleep. This helped them learn to self soothe, but it also meant that their feeding times adjusted as they grew up.
You see, as my babies grew up, they took fewer naps, which also meant we had fewer feeding sessions. In the beginning, they might’ve taken five naps a day and drank milk five times as well. But as the number of naps decreased, they also had fewer times to feed.
If your baby isn’t drinking milk, see if you can stretch the times in between feedings so he’s hungrier come the next one. He might simply need more time—and space in his tummy—in between feedings to finish a whole bottle or nursing session.
4. Mix milk with solids
Worried your baby isn’t getting enough calories from breast milk or formula? Try mixing the milk with his solids.
Instead of using water to prepare his oatmeal or rice cereal, mix it with milk instead so he gets both solids and milk at the same time. You can also mix milk with fruit or vegetable purees, especially if you were already going to water the texture down anyway.
I’ve heard of other moms who make “momsicles,” or breast milk or formula frozen as an ice pop. Sucking on milk can be a creative way to draw a curious baby to consume his milk. Keep in mind that this can get messy, especially if your baby is new to holding and sucking on an ice pop.
It’s never easy when your baby takes an hour to drink milk, or pushes you or his bottle away when you try to feed him. We get frustrated because we know we’re not supposed to force our babies to drink, but at the same time, we’re stressed they’re not drinking enough.
But as you’ve seen, you’re not stuck. Try these simple tricks to help your baby start drinking milk regularly. Offer milk before solids so he’s more likely to finish it on an empty stomach (or offer it an hour later after solids).
Feed him in between longer intervals, where he’ll have an appetite to finish the bottle or nursing session. Mix his milk with purees and cereals to make sure he’s getting calories from milk as well.
And check with your pediatrician how many ounces or how long your baby should be nursing—it might turn out that you have nothing to worry about after all.
If I can offer one bonus tip, it’s this: relax.
It’s amazing how much our babies can pick up on our moods and reflect the stress we feel. The more stressed and frustrated you feel, the longer it can take to help your baby drink more milk.
When we have babies, it’s easy to overlook just how long of a journey we have ahead of us, when every day there’s something to worry about. If anything, you’ll likely forget this stage down the line, or chuckle to yourself at how worked up you got about it.
And who knows—just when you let go, could be when your baby decides to drink his milk again.
Take a look at my video on what to do if your baby refuses bottle feedings:
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Stop the sleep-deprivation and grab your copy below—a few days or weeks from now, you’re going to look back and be so glad you did:
Tell me in the comments: what is your biggest struggle with your baby not drinking milk? What additional tips can you add?