Lack of interest in eating (11 wks)

I hope you can give me some insight. I have an 11 week old girl who was born 5 weeks early. She was 6 lbs at birth and weighs 10.4 lbs at 11 weeks. She is eating about 12 oz of formula per day. The most she will take at one feeding is 4 oz. She will often (daily) go 10-12 hours eating only 1-2ozs. I offer her food every 4 hours since she rarely cries for food.

Sometimes when I offer her the bottle, she will eat 4 ozs vigorously. Other times she will eat only 1 oz and clamp her lips together and refuse to eat more. Other times she will eat 1-2 ozs and begin screaming while sucking. As the scream passes she will try to suck more, but she will begin screaming again until she has no interest in eating.

We have tried just about every formula (Infamil, Similac, Carnation, Soy). The regular formula gave her terrible gas and the soy made her constipated. (A bowel movement would take 2 hours of screaming and produce a small hard pellet - poor thing!) My doctor has her on a mixture of 1/2 soy and 1/2 Enfamil mixed together. This has produced the best results. Minimal gas, no constipation.

My concern is the length of time between feedings. 12 hours seems like a long time for such a small baby to go between feeding. Can this cause her harm?

Thank you for any insight


Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Dear Kimberly,

First, it is important to realize that all babies progress at their own rate. Some are voracious, eager eaters, and others would just rather do something else. To a certain extent you need to factor that into the equation, and go along with it. The main mission of eating is to promote optimal growth and development. You and your pediatrician can determine the adequacy of your daughter's growth. If you are both happy with her progress, then her feeding habits are not so much of a concern.

Nonetheless, twelve hours to go without eating is a very long time. Can I assume that this time is at night, and she is sleeping? If it is during the day, it may be she has her days and nights mixed up, and is needing to rearrange her schedule. If it is at night...than only if her growth is delayed, would I wake her for a feeding. However, confirm this with your pediatrician and go with his advice. She will know best if this is appropriate for your daughter and her situation. Otherwise, I suggest that you do offer a bottle of formula to your baby at least once every four hours during the day, letting her make the decision how much she will eat. Be sure one of those bottles is offered just before she is put down for the night.

Your daughter's lack of interest in eating may also be due to the feeding relationship you have established with her. Often, an over anxious parent will convey the anxiety to their baby, thus prohibiting a successful, relaxed experience. Although it may sound opposite to what you would expect, infants whose mothers spend more time stimulating their infant during feeding, and who stimulated their infant during pauses between sucking actually reduced the total consumption of food. Try to get someone whom you trust to observe your feeding behavior and see if they may have some insights as to how relaxed you are, and how infant led the process is. A good person to have observe would be a pediatric nurse.

Finally, talk to your pediatrician about your concerns. That is the professional in closest touch with your daughter, her history, and her growth patterns. A simple call to them should offer some valuable advice.

Thank you for writing.

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