It’s common for a mother to feel concerned when her baby isn’t nursing as much. There are several reasons this may happen. Here are 8 reasons why your baby may be sleeping more and eating less, from a nurse.

As a postpartum nurse and a mom who breastfed my babies, I learned that there are several times that it’s normal for a baby to be sleeping more and eating less. We will look at each of these, as well as when to know if you should be concerned. 

If you have a brand new baby, one born in the last two days, it is normal for your baby to prefer sleeping over feeding. When newborn babies are born, they are still using what they received in mom’s womb. They may or may not be eager to feed because they don’t FEEL hungry for the first two days.

It is still important to wake them up every two to three hours and feed them, even if it’s just a little bit. The first few nursing sessions are essential for establishing your future milk supply. Do skin-to-skin or make your baby mad if need be, but wake them up to feed them. 

8 Reasons Why Your Baby may be Sleeping More and Eating Less

Oftentimes, a mom of a baby who is sleeping more and eating less will perceive that she has a low milk supply. These are usually moms of infants who have been nursing for a month or more. Though this could be true, these signs alone do NOT mean your milk supply is low:

  • Your breasts don’t feel full anymore
  • No feelings of letdown
  • Baby is feeding more often
  • Breasts aren’t leaking anymore
  • Baby wants more to eat after nursing

After a month or two of breastfeeding, our bodies may “figure it out” and learn to handle milk supply more efficiently. It may not feel the same as it did in the beginning while we were nursing. We may have just as much milk, but not experience the same symptoms.

This is called “regulating.” At the beginning of postpartum, your milk supply relies on a rush of hormones. But between 4-12 weeks your milk supply peaks, and you and your baby know what to do each day. You may notice less leaking, breasts that feel overall softer, and possibly a small drop in supply. But if demand continues, whether through nursing or pumping, you should make the same amount of milk as always until weaning begins. 

A Breastfed Babies Normal Eating Patterns

Your baby’s appetite may change from time to time while you are breastfeeding. A newborn baby will normally feed every two to three hours for 20-40 minutes. They may lose weight the first few days after birth but should return to their birth weight by two weeks of age. Nursing every two to three hours usually continues until babies are introduced to solid foods or infant formula. 

did my milk supply drop

8 Reasons Why Your Baby May be Sleeping More and Eating Less

Let’s look at the most common reasons your baby may be sleeping more and eating less. 

1. Your baby is getting enough calories to go for longer stretches.

It is normal for a baby who is exclusively breastfed to feed 8-12 times in 24 hours. Is your baby getting this many feedings during their awake time during the day? If you have a scale at home, you can do a pre and post weight feed to see if they are getting enough milk. Have a support person hold your baby and weigh themselves together. Nurse your baby and have your person hold again and check for weight gain. Did they gain a couple of ounces?

Longer sleep stretches can be okay IF your baby is feeding at least 8-12 times in 24 hours and you are feeding or pumping at least once during the night. If your baby needs some help waking up, try skin to skin contact.

2. You have started supplementing with formula.

Anytime a breastfed baby moves from exclusive breast milk to formula fed, they tend to go for longer stretches between feedings. Formula doesn’t digest as quickly as breast milk. This means a baby may feel fuller for longer leading to less feedings and longer sleep patterns. Formula-fed babies usually feed every three to four hours and a total of 8-10 times in 24 hours. 

3. You introduced solid foods.

Similar to introducing formula, once solid foods begin to be introduced around six months of age, a baby may naturally decrease how much they are nursing as well as sleep for longer amounts of time. Breast milk is quickly digested. Formula or solid foods is going to keep a baby feeling full for longer periods which can cause older babies to sleep longer. When eating habits change, it can cause a change in your baby’s sleep patterns. 

4. Your baby is teething.

When your baby is teething, they may be irritable and fussy. Other signs can be drooling and chewing on their fingers often. Some babies deal with teething by eating less and sleeping more. Baby sleep patterns may increase if they aren’t feeling well. If teething is your baby’s issue, this should pass once a tooth breaks through the gum. Check the bottom gum line and see if you can see redness, bulging, or white lines. These are signs it is indeed teeth related. 

6. Your baby just had a vaccine.

Similar to teething, a vaccine can cause your baby to feel irritable and fussy. They may also have runny nose or feel sore where they received the vaccine. This usually only lasts 24 hours. Follow your pediatrician’s instructions and give Tylenol or ibuprofen depending on their age if your baby seems uncomfortable. Loss of appetite, for a short time, is common after a vaccine. 

7. Your baby just had a growth spurt.

Babies will often cluster feed when they have a growth spurt. This means they will feed more often than the standard 8-12 times in 24 hours. Sometimes it’s every 30 minutes. As they cluster feed, they are signaling their mother’s breasts to make more milk. Though this can feel exhausting, it usually only lasts 2-3 days.

The after-effects can be a worn-out baby who wants to eat a little less and sleep a little more to make up for all the work they just put in. A cognitive leap can cause the same and often works hand in hand with a growth spurt. This is when a baby is experiencing a jump in a developmental milestone.

7. Your baby is fighting an illness.

This certainly isn’t uncommon in the cooler months as colds and the spreading of germs tend to rev up. Does your baby have other symptoms than eating less and sleeping more? Are they stuffy or running a fever? Does underneath their eyes look purple or dark or does their breath have a bad odor? All of these signs can mean they are fighting a germ. Sometimes a baby will want to eat a little less and sleep more if this is the case, but it should be short term. If you struggle with getting your baby to feed for more than a couple of days, call their doctor.

8. Your milk supply has decreased.

If none of the above are true, it’s possible your milk supply has decreased. If your baby frequently goes for longer than four hours between feedings or you are consistently having to wake them up to feed, it’s time to check in with your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant.

When I started back to work after having my first baby, my milk supply had dropped substantially within one month. AND I didn’t even know. My baby didn’t cry more than usual or give me signs he was hungry. Thankfully, I had a check-up with my pediatrician who noticed my son hadn’t gained enough weight the last month. Red Flag. I saw my lactation consultant, did a pre and post weight feed, and discovered I needed to supplement. Though I could still give small amounts of breast milk, supplementing was a must to meet my baby’s caloric needs. Here are my top formula picks for supplementing a breastfed baby if your milk supply has truly dropped.

8 Reasons Why Your Baby may be Sleeping More and Eating Less

When to call your baby’s doctor:

If you are still unsure about why your baby is eating less and sleeping more, it is a good idea to check with your healthcare team to figure out what’s going on. There are several reasons a mom’s milk supply may decrease in the early days:

  • Tongue-tie in babies
  • ​Delayed start to breastfeeding
  • Premature baby with a weak suck
  • Infrequent milk removal (not nursing or pumping frequently enough)
  • Infant medical conditions
  • Retained placenta

Warning Signs of Dehydration in Babies

Watch for your baby’s cues. Are they swallowing during feedings? How are their wet diapers? They should be having at least five wet diapers per day if they are experiencing healthy growth. Does their mouth or lips seem excessively dry? Is your baby’s urine dark yellow or pale yellow?

Signs Baby is Getting Enough to Eat

  • Pale, yellow urine
  • Five wet diapers per 24 hours
  • ​At least one dirty diaper every 48 hours
  • Wakes to feed on their own
  • Wakes to feed every 2-3 hours
  • Audible swallowing during nursing
  • Gaining weight each day

8 Reasons Why Your Baby May be Sleeping More and Eating Less

When in doubt, reach out for help. If your baby has only been sleeping more and eating less for a couple of days, it may very well be teething or a cognitive development jump. If it becomes a pattern and you are unable to explain it with any of the reasons above, seek some professional guidance to verify it isn’t a dip in your milk supply. Best wishes to you!

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Rachel is a Postpartum Nurse of 15+ years. She is also a Spinning Babies® CPE, Childbirth Educator, Published Author, and Recipe Creator. Rachel's passion is to encourage and empower women in all things related to motherhood.

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