Parenting Matters

Addressing Infant Feeding Issues

Parenting Matters

Addressing Infant Feeding Issues

Clinical Nurse Consultant

Michele Meehan
Maternal & Child Health

Hours of Operation

Tuesday 10-2pm,
Wednesday 10-2pm
*(extended hours available by appointment)

The Baby Who is Refusing His Feeds

The baby who is refusing his feeds.

One of the most frustrating and distressing things for any mother is when your baby is refusing to feed.



Often in the early weeks or months, your baby is still plump and looks well, so you get more reassurance than practical advice.

So what happens is, you just keep doing what you’ve been doing to keep him looking good!

  • You feed more frequently,
  • persist with the feed for even more than an hour,
  • try some tricks
  • and worry.

While it might seem counter-intuitive the opposite is what you should do- Stop the struggle!

The harder the baby is pushed the stronger will be his response, maybe even refusing to feed altogether.

Pushing may be just insisting on having more; keeping the bottle in the mouth while the baby is crying; spending an hour or more feeding or offering the bottle every hour. Often you can no longer see any hunger cues, or you feel ‘he MUST be hungry” so you offer it anyway.

You, as well your baby need to be free from the distress of the struggle, so you can be more comforting and reassuring to the baby

The baby’s signals may be fleeting or weak, but waiting for some signal ensures the baby is not offered a feed when he is tired or otherwise upset.

For 48 hours, stretch the feeds out to 4-5 hours and accept any feed he does as ‘the feed’ and waits again.

If the baby is tired, he should be settled to sleep, even if he is also ‘due’ for a feed. He will feed better when rested, rather than when irritable and tired. And you don’t want to end up having him only feed when he is asleep. A dream feed at 11pm is fine but not Every feed!

Looking for the subtle signs that the baby is about to stop feeding, means that you can intervene with talk, touch or movement to signal you have seen a signal from him.

This means he may delay the stopping of the feed for a little longer.

  • If his subtle signals are seen and responded to, he does not need to go on to more dramatic actions
  • Give control back to the baby
  • Stop when he signals.
 Let baby decide when he is hungry enough to signal.
  • If you cannot recognize the hunger signals, it may be because the baby is giving confusing cues, not that you can’t identify them.

If the baby has the control, he has no need to be forceful or dramatic in his rejection.

Acknowledge his need for a break or a pause; this is an expression of his way of pacing the feed.

As his confidence and trust increases, he will be able to give clearer messages that allow a casual ‘you want a pause’ response, rather than anxiety that he is about to stop the feed.


Check out more details on “Changing Fussy feeding” download.

Do you and your child need further assistance?

If you would like to speak to me directly about these issues, feel free to call in or book an appointment here.

Michele Meehan

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