What can you do if your newborn baby’s feeding patterns suddenly change? Information on what it might mean if your baby is feeding more or less or refusing the breast.
Feeding more is almost always linked with a baby’s normal increase in appetite. Traditionally, this is explained as your baby having a ‘growth spurt’ and because we know babies don’t grow predictably at the same rate, this makes sense.
My baby has started feeding more or isn't feeding as well as before
There’s no good evidence that these spurts occur at specific ages and stages though – they can happen at any time. Your baby might feed more because he needs more – and the way he gets more is to feed more often.
Babies may also feed more at times when they need reassurance and comfort. The security and emotional connection at the breast can be important for babies of all ages.
If you find that your baby is not feeding well, it is important to realise that feeding less can be normal, too. Older babies can often get what they need with shorter, and/or less frequent feeds. They can reject the breast when it’s offered, and/or show clear signs they’re finished sooner than you’ve been used to, being satisfied with one breast only, perhaps, or breaking off after just a few minutes and refusing to go back on. If your baby is healthy and thriving, there’s normally no need for concern about this as baby feeding routines usually vary frequently in the early days.
At other times, feeding less can mean a sore mouth, or earache, or discomfort of some other sort, or a lack of energy due to mild illness. Check with your GP or your health visitor if you think your baby may be unwell.
My baby is refusing the breast
This can sometimes be a ‘nursing strike’ and it’s usually temporary. Your baby may refuse the breast entirely and be distressed and cross when you keep offering.
Babies sometimes do this when something upsetting or strange has happened to them – perhaps separation from you, or the experience of a busy time when noise and confusion has distressed them. On other occasions, it’s not possible to say what might have caused the ‘strike’.
Call a breastfeeding counsellor if this happens to you, as there are many things you can do to address the problem. Patience and being calm are usually what wins out in the end – sometimes alongside the tips the breastfeeding counsellor can share with you.
If your baby is not breastfeeding, or feeding much less often, you will need to express to keep your supply going and to be comfortable.
NCT supports all parents, however they feed their baby. If you have questions, concerns or need support, you can speak to a breastfeeding counsellor by calling our helpline on 0300 330 0700, whether you are exclusively breastfeeding or using formula milk. Breastfeeding counsellors have had extensive training, will listen without judging or criticising and will offer relevant information and suggestions. You can also find more useful articles here.
National Breastfeeding Line (government funded): 0300 100 021.
NHS information on mastitis
Best Beginnings - Bump to Breastfeeding DVD Chapter 7 'Overcoming Challenges'
Healthtalkonline.org: Managing Breastfeeding – dealing with difficult times