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  • Post last modified:December 9, 2020
  • Post comments:3 Comments

5-month-old baby won't eat

Mom’s Question:

My 5-month-old baby won’t eat as much as she used to. I’m only getting about 15-20 oz into her every day this week.

She shows the normal signs of hunger, but will only finish up to half of her formula before refusing the rest. I started her on 1 tsp of rice cereal 2 weeks ago. She seemed fine with it at the start but now refuses that as well.

She shows absolutely no signs of teething or illness. I’m afraid she’s not getting enough to sustain herself, but she’s generally happy otherwise and sleeping well. What should I do?


Baby Helpline:

Tips When 5-Month-Old Baby Won’t Eat

How much food is too little

It is worrying when your baby doesn’t seem to eat enough. However, babies go through growth spurts when they seem to eat all the time, then at other times; they seem to need very little. If your daughter is healthy and hungry, she would be crying and showing signs of wanting more to eat.

A rough guide to a baby’s milk needs is to multiply your baby’s weight by 2.5 oz, so a 13lb baby would drink roughly 32.5 oz in a 24 hour period. However, this can vary a lot depending on whether or not she is well, teething, about to do a growth spurt and just normal variations too.

You don’t mention how much your baby’s weight, but even if she weighs less than the average for her age, drinking 15-20 oz per 24 hours does seem quite low. How much did she use to to drink before?

Usually by six months, on average babies have doubled their birth weight, but there are huge variations to this too.

If your little girl has been putting on weight gradually, a plateau is nothing to worry about. If you are really worried, then take her to your health nurse, but if she is happy and feeding until she chooses she has had enough, then I think you can trust she will let you know when she is hungry.

Who knows, next week you could be up half the night with extra feeds while she catches up!

My youngest was just like that. Some weeks he was breastfeeding around the clock and other times he ate almost nothing. When he was a baby, he had me worried many times until I realized this was just his hunger pattern. I took him to his health nurse for weighing on several occasions and he was always just fine. :-)

There is also some interesting research that indicates heritability in appetite. So if you or your daughter’s dad is a slow eater or generally not a very hungry person, her appetite can also simply be due to genes.

The one sign to worry about in the short-term is if she is showing signs of dehydration. In such a case, take her to a doctor immediately for examination and advice.

Possible reasons why a 5-month-old baby won’t eat

Now, in addition to dehydration, which is something to look out for, you can try to find out if there are other reasons but a plateau for her lost appetite.


While teething, the pain and itching may lead to a loss of appetite. Both the tooth eruption and the inflamed gums can make feeding uncomfortable and painful. So do check her mouth for any signs of teething. You can find a number of teething remedies here.


You mention that you introduced rice cereal a couple of weeks ago. While filling, this can also lead to some degree of constipation. And constipation can make feeding uncomfortable, with a loss of appetite as a result.
So, if your daughter is at all constipated, stop feeding her rice cereal and see if it helps.

A sore throat or an ear infection

Sometimes a throat or ear infection is mild enough to go more or less unnoticed by the adult, but it can still be painful for the child. With a sore throat, the appetite can, of course, be affected. The same goes for an ear infection, which can make it painful to swallow.

Check if your baby’s throat glands are swollen or if she jerks when you press them since that would be an indication of pain. Check her throat too if possible. And, of course, take her to a doctor if she seems ill.

Too much other fluids

Since your baby is so young, I’d assume you don’t let her drink a lot of water? Small amounts of water can be fine in really hot weather, but since your baby’s appetite is low, I’d recommend cutting out water completely and only feed her milk. Drinking a lot of fluids can, of course, affect a baby’s appetite.

The feeding situation

Sometimes the feeding situation can be stressful for the baby. If you are very stressed due to the poor feeding, your baby can feel it and lose even more of her appetite.

In the same way, if the feeding has turned into a power struggle between the two of you, this can certainly affect your baby’s willingness to eat.

In such a case, changing the feeding position, environment or even the person feeding her can help.

Also, take a deep breath and try to get rid of any negative feelings regarding her eating before starting the feeding. Smile at her. Put on some soothing music or some TV-show or whatever. And decide for yourself that you will not try to force your daughter to eat at all.

Healthy children do not starve themselves.

How to improve a baby’s appetite

In addition to, of course, making sure that your baby is not ill, teething, constipated or generally stressed by the feeding situation, here are some things you can do to increase her appetite:

Play with her! Any activity, laughter, and movement will improve her appetite.

Go outside! Daylight and fresh air are great for the appetite as well as for sleep quality. Take her to a playground or just for a walk or into the garden. If your back allows it, carry her in an upright position face out in a baby carrier for sometimes, to let her discover the world.

Play around with feeding frequency and schedule. Some people are naturally less hungry in the mornings. Some in the evenings. Many young babies tend to be more hungry in the evenings for some reason.

If you really do all you can to avoid making the feeding stressful, then nothing stops you from offering the bottle frequently. A sip now and then in between meals can make a big difference in terms of the total amount of milk.

You’ll find another thread with a baby refusing to eat here.

I hope this helps. Once again, don’t worry, but do look for signs of illness and have your baby checked up of you are at all worried.

Good luck!


Who else has a baby that won’t eat? What did you do? :-)


Mar 01, 2019 similar situation

by: Anonymous

Going through the same situation with my 6month old..has been 3-4 weeks that feeding her milk is a battle… She used to drink 30-32 oz before 5 months and now I am lucky to get her to have 24, tried cereal at 5 months..worked 1-2 days and then refused to eat..tried them all even with fruit. I went to MD and since she gained weight not much to worry about, I will try solids tomorrow again. I am still worried!

May 22, 2019 6 mo old not wanting to eat WORRIED
by: Miranda

I’m having the same problem my 6 mo old, she was taking a bottle great up until last week, she’s underweight by the average but was also 4 weeks early. we went for y\her 6mo check-up and told me not to be feeding her as much baby food but more milk well ever since then she’s not wanted to take a bottle. not sure if I should just go back to feeding her baby foods or what to do.

Jun 03, 2019 6-month-old won’t eat

by: Racquel

my 6-month-old was 3 wks early weighing 7lb 4oz, he used to eat a lot all the time. for the past month, he will not eat much. He cries at every feeding. bottle, jar foods juice whatever. it is so frustrating. he will go 8hrs refusing to especially at daycare. his pediatrician gave me Zantac(antacid) to try today at his 6-month visit. we will see how that goes. He 17lb 12oz but his percentile is dropping compared to birth

Jun 13, 2019 won’t eat

by: Nicole

my son is 5 months old and he refuses to eat baby food I have tried every fruit there is and sweet potatoes and I have tried cereal and he just spits it all out ugh what to do!

Jun 13, 2019 my 5.5-month-old use to eat solids now won’t

by: nikkobug68

I started my son on cereals in a bottle at 3.5 months. Formula wasn’t enough, he wanted to eat every 2 hours or less. I started him on baby food and spooned cereal at 4 months. He uses to eat just fine, got the hang of the spoon right away without pushing the food out of his mouth. By 4 months he was eating 2-3 1st food jars a day along with his formula.

He’s 5.5 months now and I can’t get him to spoonfeed anymore. The last 3 days I’ve tried and he’s cried his way through eating only a few bites. I’m a little worried, I’m going to go back to bottled cereal and try a spoon again in a few days. I was thinking it may just be teething, but his gums aren’t swollen and I don’t see any cutting in. When I use Orajel he tends to calm right down when he’s fussing. Could this just be teething? I don’t think it’s because he’s not ready for food, he’s done fine for 2 months on food.

Jun 17, 2019 5 MTH 3 WKS REFUSING TO EAT

by: Anonymous

I have a baby girl of 5months and 3 weeks but she has refused to take breastmilk or cereal since yesterday.

But she is generally happy but cries when we try to feed her, what do you think is wrong with her? Or could it be part of the teething symptoms?

Jun 21, 2019 Teething or a cold
by: Paula (Baby Helpline)


Yes, your baby may very well be teething. Have you checked her gums to see if they seem to be red? You can read about teething symptoms here.

Your baby may also have a sore throat, be on her way to get ill, or maybe she simply isn’t hungry. If the weather is hot where you are, babies can get a reduced appetite just like adults.

Try not to force her to eat, but offer her the breast of formula (as well as baby food if she eats that) often. Also, watch out for dehydration. As long as she wets her diapers, as usual, she is likely to be OK for a few days with reduced appetite.

Hope this helps,


Jul 21, 2019 feeding habit

by: Sonia

I have an almost five months baby and he only consumes 2 oz every 2 hrs. Concern as he normally takes 6 ozs every 2 hrs.

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Mackenzie

    Did anyone have any luck with getting baby to drink more formula? Currently going through this with a 4 month corrected age baby. Thanks.

  2. Beata

    My 5.5 month old baby boy only gets about 12 oz of formula a day, that’s including his cereal intake… I’m really worried about his weight.

    He seems pretty happy and sleeps well. But refuses to drink or eat, he use to really like his cereal before and always wanted more, but now a few bites is a lot and he doesn’t even open his mouth.

    I am planning to start him on sweet potatoes/ carrots? Maybe he’s bored of his cereal?? He was teething..now his lower 2 teeth are a little out already.

    If his refusal to eat is because of his teething, how long does it usually last???

  3. Courtney

    I’m having the same problem and it has been going on for almost a month now. I went to doctor for his 6 months check up and the doctor said that everything was fine.

    He will be fine as long as he drinks 24 oz per day; however my boy only drink 20 oz per day now…he used to drink 30-40 oz when he was 3 months- 4 months… any advices?

    thank you very much for your help