A baby’s feeding pattern can be a source of concern, especially for new parents. Babies need to feed adequately to ensure proper nutrition and health. So, can a baby skip a feeding?
Your baby can skip a feeding if they’re at a healthy weight. Babies might also skip a feeding if they’re still full from their last meal or have a mild case of constipation. It’s best to keep meals within four-hour intervals. If your baby is rejecting meals frequently, consult your pediatrician.
Those first weeks of your newborn’s life can cause worry for new moms and dads. If you’re worried about your baby skipping a meal, keep reading. This article will explain if a baby can skip a feeding, reasons a feeding might be skipped, and what to do when your baby doesn’t want to eat at the scheduled feeding time.
Can your baby skip a feeding?
The most crucial reason for having and maintaining a feeding schedule is to ensure babies get proper nutrition and stay healthy. However, if your baby skips a feeding here and there, it won’t be damaging to their health or development, and there’s no need for immediate alarm. This is not an uncommon occurrence for most babies, and is likely to happen more than once during infancy.
Keep in mind, however, if your baby is a preemie or has trouble gaining weight, skipping meals should be avoided until they’ve reached a healthy weight.
When can babies go overnight without a feed?
It’s fine to consider night weaning for breastfed children and phasing out nighttime feeds for bottle-feeders if your baby is thriving at six months old. The majority of babies get enough calories during the day to support healthy growth and development by this stage.
If you want to wean your baby off nighttime feeds, try cutting back the amount of milk they take during their night feedings and work towards eliminating it entirely, as long as your child gets enough nutrition during the day.
For babies under 6 months, regularly skipping or reducing nighttime feeds can affect their weight gain. Continue to follow your baby’s cues and body signals when deciding if they’re hungry during the night. Keep in mind that it’s normal for babies to wake up during the night because of hunger or need for comfort, so you don’t necessarily need to wake them up.
Why a baby might skip a feeding
Your baby skipping a meal might not be a big deal, especially if it’s an isolated incident. Here are a few common reasons why babies might skip meals:
Baby is not hungry
Some babies may skip a feeding because they aren’t hungry at the scheduled feeding time. Perhaps they had a little more to eat earlier, and it’s just taking longer to digest.
If you try feeding your baby according to their meal plan and meet resistance, try giving them a little more time to finish digesting the previous meal. Simply check for signs of when your little one is hungry again. Common baby hunger signs include:
- Smacking lips
- Fist in mouth
- Looking for nipple
When you see your baby’s hunger signs, it’s probably time for the next feed.
Baby’s feeding schedule needs adjusting
As your baby grows older, you’ll notice they typically want to feed less often. You’ll also see signs of contentment, such as smiling or laughing, occur for longer periods of time between feeding. Provided you see a healthy and consistent weight gain, regular wetting and soiling of diapers, and your baby is alert and active, then everything is fine.
When a baby skips scheduled feedings a few days in a row, this is usually a sign it’s time to get longer stretches between feedings and start a new schedule.
You’ve started solid foods
If your baby is older than six months and you’ve begun introducing solids, this can affect meal times. Make sure to reduce the amount of bottle/breast milk they take at mealtimes so their tummy has room for solid foods.
Once your baby has been introduced to solids for a week or two, you can begin feedings with solid meals, and follow up with breast milk. This will be a very gradual transition though – you shouldn’t expect to replace an entire milk feed with a meal of solids straight away.
Baby is constipated
If your baby doesn’t want to be fed according to schedule, it’s possible they’re constipated. The abdominal walls of an infant are still underdeveloped, and it’s normal for a baby to have difficulty passing hard stools. Typically, constipated babies will be uncomfortable with some belly pain and be unusually fussy, particularly when you try to feed them. They often refuse to eat, resulting in a skipped feeding.
Although, it’s important to note, if your baby hasn’t pooped all day, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re constipated. Every baby’s body is different, and they might not pass stool every day. However, if it’s gone beyond a normal time frame since your baby passed a hard stool or had any bowel movement, then they’re likely constipated.
If you think your little one might be constipated, there are some remedies to try at home, such as giving your baby a little drink of water or some fruit juice (apple, grape, cherry, prune, or pear). If this doesn’t work, give the doctor a call.
Note: Do not give your baby laxatives without direction from your pediatrician.
Baby is sleeping
A baby might skip a feeding if they’re sleeping during the scheduled time. Getting enough sleep is just as important as getting enough to eat, so you may be torn over whether or not to wake up the baby to eat.
If it’s less than four hours since the last feed, it’s probably best to let the baby continue sleeping, as their body probably needs to sleep still. Usually, babies who sleep through a feeding will wake up hungry and ready to eat immediately.
Baby is sick
If a baby refuses two or more feedings in a row or multiple feedings over a couple days, this could be a sign of illness. A few isolated incidents may not be a cause for concern. As mentioned earlier, if your baby refuses one meal a day but still maintains a healthy weight, then it’s probably just time to space out feedings a little longer.
However, if your baby rejects food several times a day and barely meets their usual food consumption, then you might want to look out for other signs of illness like:
- Fever over 100°F (37.8°C)
- Vomiting after feeding
- Persistent cough
- Vomiting blood or blood in the stool
- Constant crying
- Weight loss
If you see any of these symptoms, visit your pediatrician.
Baby is stressed or distracted
Unusual smells or tastes could distract your baby and lead to a skipped feeding. Seemingly inconsequential changes, like using a new lotion or perfume, is enough to distract the baby from what’s otherwise a normal routine. Other circumstances, such as delays in feeding, prolonged separation from you, or other big changes (such as travel) could create some stress for your baby, causing them to skip a feed or go on a feeding strike.
Additionally, any changes in your diet or medication can alter the taste of your breast milk to the point your little one refuses to eat. It can take up to several days for altered breast milk to get back to normal, so it’s best to avoid big dietary changes and most medications (if possible) while breastfeeding.
Nursing mothers are having supply or other breastfeeding issues
Mom may have a hard time producing enough milk for their baby, causing them to skip meals. In this case, it’s important to look at the breastfeeding techniques you’re using and work with a lactation consultant or your pediatrician to find a method that works for you.
What to do when your baby skips a feeding
If your baby has skipped a feeding, there’s no immediate need for panic or concern. It’s likely due to one (or more) of the reasons listed above. Depending on the situation at hand, there are some things you can do:
- Wait it out. If your baby isn’t hungry or asleep at feeding time, wait it out a while. If the last feeding was less than three or four hours ago, you can go an extra hour before trying again.
- Switch things up. It may be time to adjust the baby’s feeding schedule. Instead of five small meals during the day, try four larger meals.
- Identify recent changes that may be causing stress. Consider any possible distractions and stress factors that may be resulting in skipped feedings and try to correct them. For instance, you should avoid using hygiene items with new fragrances close to feeding times.
- Check for signs of illness. Keep an eye out for other symptoms that accompany skipped feedings. If your baby refuses to eat, take their temperature and check their stool. Also be mindful of other signs like vomiting, coughing, or wheezing.
- Visit your doctor. If your baby skips multiple feeds regularly and is losing weight or showing symptoms of illness, then it’s best to visit the pediatrician. They can examine your little one and ultimately give you the best advice for their health.
Recommended feeding schedules for babies
A baby typically shouldn’t go longer than four hours without a feed. Usually, the younger your baby is, the more often they’ll need to eat. A baby’s stomach isn’t quite large enough to store lots of food, so they need to eat frequently for proper nutrition.
Here’s a simple feeding guide for babies according to age:
- 0 to 6 months: Every 2 – 4 hours
- 6 to 12 months: Every 4 – 6 hours
- 12 to 24 months: Let your baby decide
Even with this mini-guide, you’ll still need to be vigilant and follow your baby’s cues. Some babies prefer to feed multiple times within specific periods of the day, known as cluster feeding. Typically, babies that cluster feed will also sleep for longer durations.
As long as your baby still maintains a healthy weight and isn’t showing other signs of illness, skipping a feed should be okay. It’s possible that it’s time to rework their feed schedule, or your baby could just be too distracted. Only if you see signs of weight loss or illness should you be concerned, in which case, a visit to the doctor is recommended.