Reasons for a Baby to Drink Less Formula

Expert Q&A

A baby feeding herself yogurt.
Yogurt can be a good source of calcium and vitamin D. Photo by Ruslan Dashinsky/Getty Images

Question. I have a 5-month-old son. He has been fighting me to eat for about a month. He loves cereal, fruits, and vegetables but does not like sucking on his bottle. At times, he will suck down a bottle very quickly and finish it, but most of the time he cries and jerks his head around. Eventually, he will decide he is ready to eat and he will eat 2 to 5 ounces and be done. Before this, he was eating about 5 to 7 ounces every 3 hours plus cereal in both the morning and evening. Now his bottles range in amount and he eats every 4 hours. His formula intake for a day ranges from 18ish to about 22ish. My pediatrician is not worried and stated that as long as he is growing it is ok. Karen, Little Egg Harbor, NJ

Answer. That amount of formula is below the 24 to 32 ounces of baby formula that you would expect a 5 month old baby to eat.

Baby Not Drinking Formula?

Among the reasons why an infant might be drinking less baby formula than recommended might include that:

  • he is going through a little slowdown in his growth, although this should only last a few days or so
  • you are feeding him too many solid foods, and much more than the 3-5 tablespoons of cereal a day and 1-2 tablespoons of fruits and vegetables once or twice a day that a 4-6 month old baby might be eating. Keep in mind that many infants don't even started solids until they are 6 months old, so any amount of cereal, fruits and vegetables could be too much for some babies.
  • the nipples of his bottles aren't letting enough formula out fast enough and he is getting frustrated. If this might be the case, you could consider upgrading to a medium or fast flow nipple for his bottles.
  • you are either waiting too long to feed him or are feeding him too early. Either could cause problems and you might experiment with the timing of his feedings to see if it makes a difference.
  • that he is teething, although you should feel or see some teeth if this were the case.

It could also be that he just prefers solid food, although this is usually an issue with older infants when it is a more common time to be eating three meals a day of solid foods.

Does he do better with his bottles if you first give him some cereal? If that is the case, you might completely separate the times that he eats baby food and formula, so that he doesn't expect them together.

Could It Be Reflux?

Does your baby spit up a lot?

Is he often fussy?

Although you might expect a baby with acid reflux to not eat at all, he might have a harder time with bottles. The same might occur with a baby with an ear infection.

Or it could just be normal. The fact that 24-32 ounces if the average intake of baby formula means that some are drinking more and others are drinking less, and all can be healthy and growing well.

Talk to your pediatrician and see if your baby needs an infant vitamin to make sure he is getting enough iron and vitamin D did though.

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