Is My Baby Eating Enough?

Updated on October 05, 2009
R.N. asks from Pleasant Grove, UT
14 answers

Hi Moms, Help! My baby was born and weighed in at 7lbs. 9oz. He has never been a very good eater. I started breastfeeding him and he really struggled at first. I supplemented him with bottles up until he was four months old. Every night I would feed him a 4 oz bottle and did this since the day he was born. ( I breastfed him during the day) At four months he refused the bottle and only wanted to nurse. He still nurses but never for more than 5-10 minutes about 6 times a day. He keeps me up at night and I have wondered if he was really hungry but he won't take much more than I give him and since he won't take bottles anymore I just have no way to know if he is getting enough. He is small for his age too weighing only 14 lbs. He is 6 and 1/2 months old. I look online and other moms are saying that their babies are drinking 3-4 eight oz. bottles a day! Plus solids. My baby is barely eating some solids. I am just so tired of worrying can anyone help me with suggestions?

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So What Happened?

Thank you all so much for your advice and encouragement!! I think I am just fretting too much and it looks like he is doing fine. He might have aome sensitivty to food so I am just going to take things slowing with solids and let him lead out. It really helped to reassure me that all was ok. Thanks all you great moms out there. R.

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answers from Provo on

My baby also only ever ate 5-10 minutes at a time, about 6 times a day. He has always been low weight, but he seems to be growing just fine. The only thing is that he has had a lot of colds in his short life (he's 15 months now, and 22 pounds--16th percentile), and I don't know if that might be related to the fact that he never ate a lot.

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answers from Denver on

Hi R.--
A couple of things. First, breast fed babies do not gain weight as quickly as bottle fed babies because they are able to self-regulate. Second, it only takes between five and ten minutes to empty the breast completely, so he doesn't need to nurse longer than that. My youngest son only nursed for five minutes at a time from the word go, while my older son would sometimes suck for 20 minutes. And I only fed on one side at a time because neither would take more than that. Next, both of my son's were late eaters by pediatrician standards. My midwife who is also a naturopath said that you know a baby is ready for solids when they get teeth because that signals their body to change the enzymes in the saliva. My youngest didn't eat solids until he was a year.

As for breast milk production--are you drinking enough water? About 1 ounce for every pound you weigh a day? Are you eating enough protein? Have you tried some natural breast milk enhancers? Fenugreek, mother's milk tea, blessed thistle, alfalfa.

Finally, I have to ask if your little one is having some odd symptoms. Does he have rashes or eczema? Does he have dark circles or puffy eyes? Does he have redness around his rectum on a regular basis? Does he arch his back away from you after eating? At night is he just suckling or is he eating? I ask these questions because both my sons have food allergies and that effected the way they eat and their comfort with eating. So if your son does have some of these symptoms I have lots more to share with you about how to help. If he doesn't have these symptoms then try to the breast milk enhancers above. Oh, and one more thing. Some babies just don't sleep through the night no matter what you do.
Good luck---happy to help more if anything I said here resonates with you.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

Hi, R.!
Just wanted to add some thoughts I hope will encourage you.
There are a few ways to tell if your breastfed baby is getting enough. How are his appearance and general attitude? Does he have nice color ro his skin, without looking sunken in around the eyes, or glassy-eyed? Is he generally cheery, spending lots of time looking around at his surroundings? If yes, sounds like he's getting enough calories to allow him to learn and grow and not at all dehydrated. Noting diaper "output" can be hugely reassuring, too. If he has 5 to 6 really wet disposable diapers a day, and at least one bowel movement every couple of days that is yellow in color, you're doing great and so is he.
If his poop is greenish or frothy and he seems extra fussy, consider nursing him on the same side for longer so he can get more hindmilk. (Sometimes babies who nurse only briefly get more foremilk than hindmilk and do not seem as satisfied, or have greenish stools.) Since human milk changes consistancy during each feeding, from the high-water, high-protein foremilk that comes out first to the creamy, high-fat hindmilk that helps babies put on weight, it is important to let him nurse for awhile on one breast to allow that consistance change to occur. This will also trigger your body to increase your milk production to meet his needs.
It's OK that he's not interested in solid food. The latest recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics say babies should not start eating any solid foods until they are at least six months old, because of the risk of developing allergies if you start sooner. Other signs of babies' readiness include losing the tongue thrust reflex that makes them spit everything out, being able to pick up small bites of food with their pointer finger and thumb in a pincer grasp, and, of course, being able to sit up unassisted. There are few solid foods that even come close to being as calorie-dense and nutrient-dense as your milk; if you are concerned about his weight, more frequent nursing would be more effective than offering baby puffs or peas or something similarly low-fat.
It's also good to remember that he could be hitting a growth spurt and/or teething, which would make him eager to nurse quite a bit at night. The more he is at the breast, the more your body will adjust to meet his needs perfectly.
Please don't compare your breastfed baby to other mothers' artificially-fed babies. It's just not an accurate comparison and you'll make yourself crazy with self-doubt when it sounds like you are a wise and intuitive mother. You can feel good that you are providing your son with the superior infant food!
I highly recommend you contact your local La Leche League group and attend a meeting. All their services are free, including phone help from accredited Leaders, and the moms at meetings are super nice and experienced with the ups and downs of nursing relationships. You can find your local group at The Utah County area Leaders I have met have all been terrific and well worth the effort to chat with.
Best wishes to you!

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answers from Fort Collins on

Every child is different. PLEASE do not compare your son to anyone else's baby. My 6 week old is 12-1/2 lb, and is gaining like a beast. My best friend's little girl is 6 months old and only 11-1/2 lb. However, they are both healthy and happy. The first thing I would recommend is to find a local La Leche League leader and talk to her about your problems. She will be able to go much more in-depth with you than we can online.

1. Milk supply - You may or may not know that milk production is a supply & demand system. The more your son nurses, the more milk your body will produce. Because he was getting supplemental bottles, your body was producing only enough milk for him to drink during the daytime. If you continue to nurse him on demand, your milk supply should quickly go up.

2. How much is he getting - The amount of time he nurses is NO indication of whether or not he is getting enough milk. My first daughter nursed for 40 minutes on each side, at least. After a while, I started cutting her off at 20 minutes, because of sore nipples. She was consistently top of the charts for weight until she started crawling. My second daughter nursed about 15 minutes per side. She was consistently top of the charts for weight until she started crawling. My third daughter is 6 weeks old. She nurses only 5-10 minutes per side most of the time. She has consistently been top of the charts for weight. Some babies are simply more efficient than others at getting milk out.

3. How often he feeds - Every child has a different pattern of nursing. You say 6 times during the day, so I'm guessing about every 3 hours? He may be trying to get your milk supply up, or he may be nursing for comfort. 6 months old is also a common time for a growth spurt, in which case he will nurse more often to increase your supply. The best thing you can do for your milk supply is to nurse on demand.

4. Eating solids - 6 months is the MINIMUM age recommended by the AAP to start a baby on solids. At that age, they are only playing with food; your breast milk should be his primary nutrition until he is about a year old. I know many babies who are completely uninterested in solids until a year or even 18 months. This is normal. In fact, some people speculate that it is a protective mechanism in babies who are susceptible to food allergies. They self-delay eating solid foods to give their bodies a better chance of not developing allergies.

5. Is he getting enough to eat - What do you think? Mom's gut feeling is often right. Is he happy most of the time, or fussy? Does his skin look nice? Is it a good color and does it have a plump feel to it, or does it look loose and saggy? If you gently pinch his skin, does it spring back into shape or does it stay droopy? Are his soft spots sucked way down? The best indicator of health is often just whether he seems healthy or not. Trust your mama instincts. Most of the time, they are right on.

6. But he's not gaining weight - Be aware that some babies have periods of time where they are not gaining weight. If he just gained a new physical skill like crawling or walking, he might even lose weight, or stay the same weight and keep growing taller. *Do not* worry about where your son falls on the chart. First of all, those charts were created based on formula-fed babies, not breast fed babies. The two gain weight totally differently. Secondly, those charts only tell you where your son is compared to the average population. By definition, someone must be in the 100% and someone must be in the 1%. That doesn't mean that your son is not healthy.

As far as the "little tube" that someone else mentioned, it is called a supplemental nursing system (SNS). It can be helpful if you need to supplement while you get your supply up. However, my friend has used it with both of her kids, and she would warn you that it is not an easy answer. She said it has a steep learning curve, and it will be several months before it is anything other than a pain in the rear to use. Also, it is the same problem as any supplementation - if your son is getting a certain amount of artificial milk, he will have less of a demand from the breast, therefore your body will make less milk. The SNS is better for your supply than giving bottles, but it is worse for your supply than continuing to nurse on demand.

I hope this helps, or at least give you some other ideas to think through. I really recommend contacting a local La Leche Leader. You can find a local group at You could have some mechanical issues like a poor latch that is keeping him from getting all the milk out that he could. More likely, your body is just making the amount of milk that he needed before he went off the bottle. With on-demand nursing, your milk supply is likely to go up. There are some supplements you can try to increase them - mother's milk tea, fenugreek, etc. You would do well to talk to someone who knows how to use those properly. If you don't have a local La Leche League group, you may be able to find help through the local hospital, or a private lactation consultant. You will likely have to pay for it in that case. I hope you guys get the help you need, and you regain your peace of mind.

Best of luck,
S. L

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pueblo on

Hi R.!
I think only you and your peditrician can determine if your baby is of a healthy weight. Being a nursing mom, you can't compare yourself to bottle feeding moms, because you really don't know how much breastmilk your little one is getting. You may have a high flow of milk...
About the comment of nursing often at night - with both of my kids, it seems like they wanted to nurse more at night when I did not nurse much during the day (like errand days...). It's like they would try to catch up.

Does he nurse for longer periods of time at night? Maybe you need to try a different position during the day (again if your milk flow is too fast for him).

You can always call a La Leche League leader - they are trained in this and can help a lot! Google them to find a local chapter.

Good luck and don't fret - keep up the good work!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pocatello on

I think that if you ped thinks he is alright, then he is probably just fine. I bet he is getting enough. If he is a happy and content baby and not fussy all the time then he is probably fine. My babies were like that too, I supplemented through till they were on solids and then didn't need to any more and they all were a bit on the smaller side but still perfectly content and healthy. As long and the doc is happy and baby is happy, mom should be too. That can be hard when we get bombarded with so much information about how much our babies should weigh and all the "helpful advice" from others... Listen to your baby, he lets you know if hes hungry. They all have different sized tummies.

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answers from Denver on

My Son rarely took a full 8 oz, he usually drank about 5 to 6 oz each time. When nursing, the rule I usually went by was 5 to 10 minutes each if he's there for 10 minutes he may be getting enough. Watch him to make sure he is sucking and swallowing consistantly during the feeding (he could just be a fast drinker or you may not have enough milk for him to continue feeding). To check if you are producing enough milk I would suggest pumping after feeding him. If you have milk left over you'll know you are producing, if there's minimal to nothing then you're definitly not making enough, especially after only 5 minutes of nursing. If that's the case you can try nursing more often to stimulate production. As for the solid food, he's just being introduced to it, so continue to offer it to him and be patient. He'll get the hang of it. If you're really concerned about his weight, check with your pediatritian. Good Luck!

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answers from Provo on

I've had friends give infant liquid vitamin who were concerned with their babies growth and nourishment. I'm an Herbalife distributor and we have one that's called Kindermins. I know it 's safe for infants and it doesn't have dyes or artificial flavorings. It's all natural. I know the nutrients from this helps with babies especially when they are going through a transition with how they are eating and what they are eating. Here's my website and phone 800-850-0609.

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answers from Cheyenne on

My son would sometimes only nurse for 3 minutes on each breast for a feeding. I asked my Ped. and she said it could be that I have fast flowing milk (I know that's true because I had gushers if he unlatched for a second) so he was getting enough in those few minutes. Also, he needed to be burped after those few minutes...he was drinking so fast that he would get air bubbles in there and that's very uncomfortable. So I would burp him and that helped. Sometimes using a different hold would help him settle, too. So I'd switch from the regular frontal position to a football/rugby one.
My ped. says if they have at LEAST 6 wet diapers per day and poop at least once a week (for breastfed babies...bottle fed babies should poop daily) he is probably getting enough. Your milk is tailor made for baby, so there isn't a lot that they need to excreet. And someone else mentioned the growth CURVE, not just weight. If he's growing at a constant rate, it should be fine. My son woke up in the middle of the night out of habbit, not because he was hungry. I'd go comfort him, lay him back down, and he'd conk out was amazing. I had been feeding him all that time thinking he was hungry!
I'd just try some different things if I were you...just to see if you can find the problem. If not, call your Pediatrician. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pocatello on

Hi, R..
There are lots of things going on. When you mention that you supplemented up until he was 4 months old, does this mean only for night feedings, or also some during the day? If he regularly took bottles, there is a chance your supply is low, because our bodies adjust to how much milk comes out.
When you say he wakes you up at night, do you mean for a couple feedings, or is he crying all night? It is normal for "good" sleepers to start waking around 4 months old and breastfeed at night.
We know the average amount of breast milk babies take each day. We also know that moms have different duct sizes, so our storage capacity differs. If one baby drinks 8 oz per feeding, and eats 32 oz per day, that's 4 big feedings. If another mother with smaller ducts (ducts, not size of the breast) usually prodcues 4 oz per feed, her baby will obviously eat more often to take the average amount of milk. This is okay. It's just showing that our bodies are different, and we need to feed the baby as he requests since our bodies produce the same average quantity but in different amounts throughout the day.
If you drink too much water, your supply will be reduced. It is important to drink drinks with calories, too. And just drink to thirst.
Lastly, there is a fabulous book on the market called The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk, by West and Marasco. It helps moms look at milk supply issues that originate with mom, baby factors, and everything in between. They also have a web site (but the book is way more thorough) You might call a lactation consultant and spend time one on one looking at your breastfeeding history. Hope this helps. Good for you hanging in there!!

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answers from Boise on

Please don't worry! Your baby sounds perfectly normal. The general rule is that babies double their birth weight by 6 months, so 14 lbs. pretty much right on target - just slightly below average - and remember, nearly half of all babies are below average! This rule was probably "created" back when most babies were formula fed, anyway, and we know that formula fed babies tend to be a bit overweight. Do not compare your babies intake to that of bottle fed infants. Your milk is nutritionally more efficient, and the fact that he only nurses for 5-10 minutes tells me that you have a good supply - otherwise he would keep on nursing until he was full. Many parents I know are not introducing solids to their breastfed infants until well over 6 months up to a year and their babies do fine; and although I think it's a good idea to start solids around 6 months, the introduction should be very gradual, with breastmilk being the primary source of nutrition until a year at least. You might want to try to nurse him more often. But as long as you are feeding him when he is hungry, you have nothing to worry about.

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answers from Provo on

Is he gaining weight? Even if he's small, is his curve going up? Plus if he has started to crawl or move around a lot more, his weight gain will slow way down.
My daughter was stuck at six feedings a day for a while, up until around seven months. Then she went down to five. Now at eight months she eats about four to five times a day. She eats solids but some days she is way into them and other days she doesn't want them.
Don't worry too much about solids. At this stage his main source of nutrition is milk. Solids are still mostly for learning at six months old.
If you are still worried here are some things to consider:

1. How much is he spitting up? If it's a lot, he could have acid reflux and If he has severe acid reflux then that could be contributing to his slow weight gain. Also if he has acid reflux then it can hurt to nurse sometimes and thus not making him want to nurse very long. Does he squirm or arch his back or cry while nursing? Just a thought.

2. How many times are you changing poopy diapers? For the first two months, my daughter was pooping all the time (no wonder she was eating all the time). We found out that she had a dairy allergy and I went of all dairy. She started having more normal bowel movements, one to two a day and her eating patterns stabilized. She also lost her fussiness and skin issues.

3. There is a tube you can get that you put in a bottle on one end and then you hold it up right next to your nipple on the other end. When you son nurses he will get you, plus some extra from the bottle. That might be a way to supplement him if you feel you need to.

Good luck. I hope this was at all helpful.

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answers from Denver on

Babies all eat differently - amounts and times. What does your pediatrician say about his growth and development? He may just be an efficient eater! You didn't say how old he was. The size isn't as important is his growth curve - which is what the dr. looks at. My daughter was a good eater, and I kept her on breastmilk only until over 8 mos... she was a big baby and breastmilk was more than enough for her. So there is no magic time to begin solids or cereal either. If he's over 6 mos, you can try some rice cereal mixed w/ breastmilk with a spoon at night. He might like it and it might keep him sleeping a bit longer. I'd check w/the dr. too. Good luck -too bad they can't just talk and tell us right?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

From my personal experiences w/not producing enough milk, it sounds like that could be your problem. Pump for a set period of time & see how much you get. I'm sure there's someplace you can check online to see about what you should be able to pump in a period of time. If yours is way less & little buddy won't take a bottle, there are feeding systems you can buy (no idea of the cost) that are basically a tube you put next to your nipple so he can nurse but is getting formula/breast milk from the bottle that hangs on a string from your neck. It's mommy-warmed & he's still got the comfort of nursing, but he's also getting more nutrition & sustinence that way.
This goes against everything you think but try putting some baby food on his high chair tray for him to explore. Glob a tablespoon or two on there & let him fingerpaint, mash up, squeeze in his fingers, run through his hair.. (obviously you don't do this when you're due for family pictures in 30 mins lol) Eventually some will get in his mouth & he'll discover it's not so bad after all. Try sweet potatoes-my boys loved them!

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