What can cause a baby to lose appetite or suddenly be less hungry? In this article, we answer a mom who is worried about her 5-month-old baby who doesn’t want to eat as much as before.

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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 daily this week.

She shows typical 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 two weeks ago. She seemed okay 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?


Tips When 5-Month-Old Baby Won’t Eat As Much As Before

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 would be healthy and hungry, she would cry and show signs of wanting more to eat. Since she seems happy and healthy and, I assume, wets her diaper, she is probably getting enough food for now.

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 is, 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 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 worried, take her to your health nurse, but if she is happy and feeding until she has had enough, then I think you can trust she will let you know when she is hungry.

Who knows, you could be up half the night with extra feeds next week 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 several times, and he was always fine. :-)

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

The one sign to worry about in the short term is if she shows signs of dehydration. Immediately take her to a doctor for examination and advice in such a case.

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 than a plateau for her lost appetite.


While teething, the pain and itching may lead to losing 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 mentioned 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, resulting in a loss of appetite.
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 swallowing painful.

Check if your baby’s throat glands are swollen or if she jerks when you press them since that would indicate 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 assume you don’t let her drink much water? Small amounts of water can be acceptable in really hot weather, but since your baby’s appetite is low, I’d recommend cutting out water entirely and only feeding her milk. Drinking a lot of fluids can, of course, affect a baby’s appetite. You can read here about why drinking water can be unsafe for young babies.

The feeding situation

Sometimes the feeding situation can be stressful for the baby. If you are very stressed due to 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 eliminate 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 and sleep quality. Take her to a playground or just for a walk or into the garden. If your back allows it, carry her upright, face out in a baby carrier for some time 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. For some reason, many young babies tend to be more hungry in the evenings.

Nothing stops you from offering the bottle frequently if you do all you can to avoid making the feeding stressful. 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 look for signs of illness and have your baby checked up if you are worried.

Good luck!


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

Leave a Reply

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. andee

    I have a baby girl of 5 months 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?

    1. Paula @ easybabylife

      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 getting 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, she will likely be OK for a few days with reduced appetite.

      Hope this helps,

  4. nikkobug88

    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 used 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 will 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.

  5. Nicole

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

  6. 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, food, 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 weighs 17lb 12oz but his percentile is dropping compared to birth

  7. 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.

  8. Lottie

    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 again tomorrow. I am still worried!

  9. 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???

  10. 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