When baby's off his milk
Breast or formula - there are often times when your baby will go off his feed.
There are lots of reasons why even the biggest guzzler might suddenly show less interest in his or her milk, whether it's breastmilk or formula.
It is usual to give babies their first experiences of food between four and six months.
General medical advice now is to wait until six months, but some babies will be hungry for
more than just milk by four months. (Don't try any earlier than this as their digestive
system is not ready.) They will show signs of wanting more feeds or, having settled into a
night sleep routine, will start to wake more frequently again.
First experiences of eating are, to some babies, simply a distraction from milk so don't be
put off if your child shows little or no interest in the apple you lovingly steamed and
mashed. Don't force them to eat; it might take a couple of months before he or she isready.
However, some babies are more than ready, and the array of new tastes (despite being simple
and bland, as no flavourings should be added at all) to them seem far more interesting than
boring old milk.
If you are using formula milk, the packaging will give you a table showing how much, on
average, your baby should be drinking each day. It can be as much as 35floz (or about a
litre). If you are breastfeeding, you are more likely to be gauging intake by the number of
feeds you are giving a day.
Whilst you do not want to discourage a baby's new found interest in food, you do need to
maintain a good milk intake and this should not drop, ideally, below about 22-25floz
(650-800ml) a day so think about giving the milk feeds at very separate times to the solids
feeds and perhaps offer a little cooled, boiled water with the food, instead.
Usually, when weaning, you would offer solids before the milk so that your child does not
fill up too much, but if you are worried about milk intake, make the bottle or breast a
priority before at least one meal. Night and morning feeds should remain unaffected but the
lack in milk-appetite during the day.
Although some babies' teeth break through earlier, the average age for a first tooth to
break through is about four to seven months. Not great timing, considering they are probably
getting used to food around now and in many cases, a breastfeeding mother may be trying to
switch to bottle feeds in readiness to go back to work.
Some babies are soothed by breastfeeding but many, despite a hungry latching on, will
quickly come away from the breast if they are in pain. Often these bouts will not last too
long and if you experience the odd day when your baby has not drunk their full quota of milk
then you shouldn't worry.
Baby paracetamols, something chilled to eat (if they are eating solids) or some chilled
boiled water might help reduce the discomfort in your child's mouth and then milk feeding
can be tried again. Don't get frustrated though, if the feeding is on/off through the day,
you are not the first person to go through this!
From breast to bottle
The sucking instinct in babies is an amazing first talent, but some babies will switch from
the breast to a teat far more easily than others.
First there is the change in position. Even though you are holding your baby close to you,
it does not replace the feeling of their cheek against your skin as they feed. Practice and
reassuring words from you will ease this transition. It might be necessary to get someone
else to do the first bottle feeds when you are not present while your baby gets used to the
If you have not used bottles before, you may get lucky and instantly hit on one that your
child likes. However, teats have differing flow sizes to suit different ages of baby, so
check you are using the right one otherwise your baby may be deluged by milk or get
frustrated when a feed takes hours longer than he or she is used to. The packaging will
guide to you to the right one for your baby's age.
Those babies who have real trouble getting used to a teat, at any age in their first year,
often do better with a latex teat (rather than a silicon one), which has a softer and more
nipple-like feel to it. These should be available at a well-stocked chemist and in many
larger baby product stores, even if they are not stocked as widely as regular bottles and
Then there is the taste of the formula milk. Whether you go for one of the big brands or
even something like organic nanny goat milk, your child will know it's not what they have
been drinking, so again, a little trial and error might be in order. Make sure the milk
isn't too hot (nanny goat milk, for example, can get a little bitter if it has been
overheated) and think about trying them in the small ready-mixed cartons so that you haven't
invested in a huge box of one formula only to find your baby hates it!
If you want to get your baby used to a bottle but they are reluctant, you can get them used
to it by using it for cool boiled water or for expressed breast milk before trying a
Keeping up fluids
Even on days when your baby really isn't interested in his or her milk, make sure they are
taking in some cool, boiled water so that they do not dehydrate. Don't give fruit juices to
a young baby as these contain unnecessary sugars.
Trust your instincts
If your baby is thriving (putting on a regular amount of weight against their own growth
chart rather than by comparing them to another larger or smaller child of a similar age)
then they may have simply adjusted to as much milk as they need. Keep a watch on how much
milk they are tending to drink through a day and mention it when you next see a health
visitor, but do not be alarmed - baby's change their habits just like you do!
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