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  • Post last modified:September 10, 2022
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Sometimes a baby gets so sick that they refuse to eat. The young baby in this Q&A refuses her formula.

What should be done?

baby is sick and won't eat

Mom’s Question:
My daughter is 3 1/2 months and she is sick quite bad. She now refuses to eat. She had her last bottle at half six pm last night.

I have tried to give her one and she is just being sick on it an she is gagging in it. She even gags on her dummy. What do I do please?

Joanne Adams

What To Do When Your Baby is Sick and Won’t Eat

The Doctor or the ER

Poor baby. I don’t know what time of the day you wrote this message, but such a young baby should of course eat a lot more often than once per day. The first thing to do is to assess her condition. If she is weak, has a fever, appears ill or dehydrated, I think you should either call a doctor or take her to the ER. She is so young, so you really shouldn’t take any chances at all.

Find signs of dehydration in this thread

Avoid Dehydration

A really sick baby may refuse to eat for various reasons, but you must still get liquid into her. If she has no appetite, she still at least needs some oral electrolyte solution, so she stays hydrated. That is extremely important! This said, I  think you should talk to a doctor to assess the situation and not just give her liquid and wait. 

Saline Nose Drops to Help her Breathing

Sometimes a sick baby may not want to drink because she can’t breathe. If she has a stopped up nose, which is especially likely since she gags on her dummy as well as on the bottle, you may want to use saline nose drops.

You can make these by adding 0.5 teaspoons of table salt to 1 cup of boiled water. After the solution has come to room temperature, put one drop in each nostril then suck with the 1 ounce rubber syringe (suction bulb). Do this before each feeding and at bed time. This will make it easier for the child to breathe.

Remedy for a Sore Throat

Other reasons your baby may not want to eat are a sore throat and nausea. In case of a sore throat, you can heat a pot of water, add a teaspoon of olive or peach oil in it and let the baby breath in the vapors. This is similar to what the cough and sore throat relieve lozenges do: release oil to cover the throat. But as the baby can’t really eat the lozenge without swallowing or, even worse, choking on it, the oil has to be inhaled. Just don’t make the water too hot and don’t use the essential oils, as those may cause allergies.

Ask your doctor for advice regarding Tylenol, if you think your baby may be in pain, or her fever is so high that she doesn’t want to eat for that reason.

If she gags on formula or breast milk, try with the oral electrolyte solution (rehydration solution) and maybe only a teaspoon at the time. Babies that have a stomach bug or even just a bad cold with a lot of mucus, may vomit very easily if they eat too much.

How to Rehydrate a Vomiting Baby at Home

Start feeding your baby rehydration solution immediately unless your Doctor has told you something else. If you can’t go out to buy any, you can make your own rehydration solution by boiling 6 teaspoons of sugar and 0.5 teaspoons of table salt in one litre (4.5 cups) of clean water.

If your baby appears dehydrated, (tired, doesn’t urinate or urine is dark yellow), start feeding her 2 teaspoons of the solution every five minutes and at the same time call the doctor for advice. 

If she is dehydrated, you need to feed her even if she is asleep. Take her up, hold her in an upright position and gently push the spoon into her mouth. You can wake her up just a little bit to make her swallow. Keep going.

I sat with my baby daughter doing this many hours at night when she had a stomach bug. The ER told me I could do this at home or in the hospital. Same procedure. I stayed at home, and she slowly got better.

I understand that this may sound very scary, but with a little baby that doesn’t eat, one really has to act. Dehydration is very dangerous for them.

I hope your daughter is better soon and not dehydrated.

Warm wishes,

(Answer approved by our Medical Reference Team)

More Sick Babies That Won’t Eat

Find answers and comments below.


Jan 07, 2012 my 19month year old babyby: ana

Hi my baby has been sick for 4 days she has been vomiting and having diarrha for the past 3 days when she was sick today she pooped 3 times it was wet but the color was a lite yellow i am not so sure if she is dangersly dehydrated her lips are fine she does still drink a little bit of water and still eating food but the thing is she loves the brest she has always loved it since she came out of the hospital when she was born. before she got sick she still didn’t like to eat that much but still drank water but now she still does drink water but not as much as before.

Please help i hope you help me solve my problem.

Jan 08, 2012 Baby Help Line Adviceby: Baby Help Line

Hi Ana, Your baby sounds like she may have a virus. They usually can last from 7-10 days. As long as your baby is taking in fluids she should be okay. You may want to try giving her an electrolyte solution such as pedialyte. This will help replenish vitamins that she may lose while sick.

Make sure you stay away from fruit juices until she does not have diarrhea anymore. If she starts to vomit or have diarrhea immediately after drinking then try giving her small amounts of fluid frequently. Start with 2 teaspoons every five minutes. If she is able to keep this liquid down for an hour, double the amount and wait 15 minutes between drinks.

If she can’t retain any clear liquids or if the symptoms become more severe, notify your pediatrician. They will examine your child and may order blood and urine tests or X rays to make a diagnosis. Occasionally hospital care may be necessary if dehydrated.


Jan 15, 2012 May have ear infectionby: Anonymous

you may also want to have her ears checked because the sucking on the bottle will hurt their ears and may stop them from eating. Good luck! Laura.

Jan 15, 2012 My 15 month old is sickby: Anonymous

Hello, my baby is 15 months and she has been sick for about four days. She has had fever, vomiting and diarrhea. She now has sores in her mouth and her gums bleed easily. Her gums are also swelling up. We took her to the doctor and the doctor said she was fine and just teething, but the symptoms are getting worse and she is not wanting to eat. I really do not know what to do. I though it could be Trush or HFMD but she does not have those symptoms. Please help, our doctor says to see if it gets better but she is not eating or drinking.

Jan 15, 2012 Back to the doctor…by: Baby Help Line – Paula


If she isn’t drinking she risks dehydration. I would take her back to the doctor if the condition has deteriorated. Have you tried any teething gel, or is she sore all over her mouth?

You could try letting her use a straw, try humid liquid, try liquid on a spoon…

In any case, if she really won’t drink, you need help.

Wish you good luck,


Mar 12, 2012 22month old wont eat.by: Sharee

Hi, I have a 22 month old daughter. She has an inner ear infection and a swollen throat. She hasn’t eaten in 2 days now. she is still drinking milk and juice, just no food. What can i give her to make her eat something?

Jun 28, 2012 MY 6MONTH BABYby: Anonymous


Jul 31, 2012 my baby keeps crying
by: lhorla
My baby is 6months + and has been sick for a week,she has temperature,vomits immediately after eating,and keeps excreting,whenever she wants to excrete she cries a lot,I took her to a doctor,and he placed her on antibiotics and paracetamol,pls help can it be toothache or measles

Sep 11, 2012 Stomach bug and other optionsby: Paula (Baby Help Line)


If your daughter throws up every time she eats and also has diarrhea, it sounds more to me like a stomach bug than teething or measles. But I am not a doctor.

When the pediatrician put her on antibiotics, didn’t he tell you why? If think you should call up the doctor’s office immediately and ask them.

Also, even if your baby is now on medication, you really have to watch out for dehydration, and make sure you give her liquid often, but very little each time (a couple of tea spoons) to prevent the vomiting. Keep giving her fluid every 5.10 minutes until she starts wetting her diapers again.

Hope this helps,


Oct 28, 2012 My 4 year old has throat infection and is not eatingby: Veronica

My daughter is 4, and was diagnosed with a throat infection. She is taking Zithromax once a day. The problem is she cannot hold food down and just wants to drink water. She is now complaining of stomach pain. What can I feed her? I feel helpless.

Oct 30, 2012 Some ideas to 4 year oldby: Paula (Easy Baby Life)

Hi Veronica,

It is really stressful when a child refuses to eat. But at the age of 4, most children can do whithout foods for a little while. They often catch up after being sick and have a huge appetite for a while.

Make sure she doesn’t get dehydrated. If possible also combine the water with some rehydration solution that you either buy or make. (The recipe is shown above.)

If she has a sore throat, then maybe some ice cream or a frozen banana could be something to give her too, as well as chicken broth.

Try not to worry; spend time with her doing things she enjoy – having fun can be great for the appetite!



Nov 11, 2012 Uti/kidney infectionby: Brittany

Hi I’m just needing help with one area. My 7 month old was in the ER 3 nights ago and had a catheder done. They treated her for a kidney infection but now that the test results are back today we found out the meds were not the right ones for this particular bacteria. They switched her meds but now it’s been 4 days of my daughter refusing food and BARELY drinking 10-14 oz of formula. She used to eat cereal and baby food 3 times a day and in addition atleast 24 oz of formula and day. I’ve noticed I big drop in her wet diapers and poopy diapers. At what point is it dangerous? Where do I draw the line and start forcing liquid by syringe?

Baby Help Line: It’s not very strange that she is pooping less, since she doesn’t eat. The key is to look for signs of dehydration – and less urination is one of them. If she becomes letharic that is another sign. You can find the signs of dehydration in babies here. Good luck!

Nov 14, 2012 my 11 months old by: josie

hi my bby is 11 months for the past 4 days, he has been throwing up every thing .i took him to the ER TWICE ,all they say,is that it is a virus. they gave him zofran . realy didn’t help actualy today when i thought that he was fine i just took time to observe him .i have been givin him pedialyte from day one that ,is the only thing he retains, today i gave him pedialyte all day he haven’t vomiting ,by 2 pm some puree @ 4pm a bit of orange juice he was fine we went for a nape .he did not throw up . keep in mind that for for days he has been vominting at least 5 times a day, he has no fever. well @ 7pm i figure out that since he is better i should give him milk. took it ok went to bed ,after 1 hrs he started to throw up again know i’m asking my self if the milk is making him sick ? i give him enfamil and he has been passing on gas every mn . thanks to you all and have a good one

Nov 14, 2012 To Josieby: Paula (Easy Baby Life)

If your baby hasn’t been sensitive to milk before, I doubt he is now. Babies throw up more easily than adults, so go very slowly with ramping up the food intake. Full-fat yogurt without sugar, mixed with some fruit puree can be a good start, as well as boiled white rice, mashed potato, rice cereal and of course formula and breast milk. Orange juice might be too strong for his stomach.

But most important is the liquid, just as you say.

Good luck!


Dec 26, 2012 baby gags when trying to breastfeedby: Anonymous


My 6 mth old daughter woke up today very grumpy and not wanting to nurse, she did feed but at first just gagged when I brought my nipple to her mouth. She’s happy and herself now I gave her some tylenol every 7hrs, but I still finds that she gags as soon as ilm about to breastfeed her. What can this be?

Jan 06, 2013 10 month oldby: Anonymous

Hi, My 10 month old daughter has had a nasty cold the past 4 days and she wont eat anything and cries all the time.. She gags at everything I try to feed her. She will take her bottle of formula and no vomit or diarrhea, just simply wont eat. She acts interested in foods (as usual) but as soon as I try to give it to her she gags and cries. Im worried about how little she is eating of solids. What should I do? Iv been giving her Tylenol as recomended by her doctor but is there more I can do?

Jan 08, 2013 Baby not eating or drinkingby: Anonymous


I am writing to just give some info on what happened to me and my (at the time 7 month old) son. He was sick w what seemed like the flu….diarrhea and some vomiting. He ate solids typically 3 times a day and breast feed a ton BUT while sick refused. We took him to the pediatrician 2 times and called several times. They said it was normal for him to not eat and to force liquids….we did and also did everything else I’m reading on here. 9 days of this he stopped breathing and I had to do CPR on him.

My pediatrician was completely WRONG!!!! So my point here is if you are having to force feed and your baby is little like mine was 7 months…crazy or not go to the EMERGENCY room!!! Don’t event waste your time back and forth to the pediatrician.

My baby was completely dehydrated and almost died. I don’t mean to scare anyone but this is true.

Jan 17, 2013 11 months and not eating well
by: Michelle

So my daughter is 11 months and is about to turn 1. I switched formula and for the past four days she has been vomiting non stop but she will keep the juice and water down but as soon as she gets the milk she starts to throw up everything she just ate moments ago. I brought her to the doctor and she said she malnutrition but she eats and drinks alot. Not only that she hasn’t gained any weight since she was checked at 7mo. So I don’t know what to think. The doctor is going to do some xrays and see what’s going to happen. But could it be from the formula? Or is it something else?

Jan 18, 2013 What formula change did you make?
by: Paula (Easy Baby Life)
Hi Michelle,
What formula did you change to and from? Also, does she eat any solid foods at all without vomiting?

It could be allergy or stomach bug.

Best, Paula

Feb 15, 2013 My 22months won’t play.. Help!
by: Maria
My 22month old Son has gotten sick, at first he was pretty bad.. Won’t eat/drink much, but has gotten better and has been drinking a lot of fluid again, and slowly eating solids again. He has gotten better and now he just has a cough.

However, he isn’t playing or responding. He seems really down, and lack energy. I just want to know if this is NORMAL?? He is an energetic & happy baby. I’ve never seen him down like this before even when he has gotten sick before. I’m starting to worry why he isn’t playing or responding. He just sits there and seems really sad… PLEASE HELP!!! :(

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Justina Bores

    My daughter just turned 1 on 3/24/15 and was on formula and milk at the same time and we only gave the formula to her at night when she goes to bed and she is now off of formula and only on Milk, and Tuesday 4/7/15 she had 3 poops in a row diarrhea, Wednesday 4/8/15 night she puked 3+ times!, Thursday 4/9/15 morning 3 times puked then at 4:30pm puked and had more diarrhea which was light pale color, then she puked 2 more times after that from trying to get her to eat 1 pea which she puked and then tried a piece of cracker which did the same never made it down to her tummy before puking. All she has had since 4:30 was water and pedia-light, she can’t keep milk, food, or pedia-light down. Her energy level is down a little less then normal seems to be sleepy. has not been able to eat or drink anything very much since Tuesday. she is having trouble sleeping, puke comes from mouth and nose at same time. we have never had any problems with any of these foods or drinks until now. My mother in law gave her 4oz of pedi-light w/ ice and then later gave her 8oz of water when she put her down for bed. I called her doctor today before i went to work and asked if i could give her some infants Tylenol to help with the puking and she told me yes every 4 hrs and i did but it didn’t do any help. She has been eating a lot of ice which also concerns me and it started about a month ago and she drinks a lot of ice water too which also started about a month ago. With all of this she has no fever at all. i am very worried, My gut is telling me to take her to the doctors tomorrow, which I am going to do!!

  2. vbach

    I have a question, my baby is 5months old and has mouth hand foot disease and has a sore throat and won’t eat. It had been about 8 hours since he last ate so I kept trying to feed him and nothing. I don’t like waiting to long to do something for him so I need advice as to what can I do to feed him. Right now he is on nothing but cereal and formula. Still wetting diapers but not as usual. He used to eat about 8oz every 3hrs and now he won’t eat anything. Its been about a day and he has been to the ER. Doctor just told me to keep giving him liquids and to give him Tylenol for the pain but my baby barely wants to swallow his saliva. He doesn’t have a fever because I have been monitoring that well. But I need advice for his feeding ? Should I do a syringe feed? Introduce some different liquids? I don’t want to just leave it alone and see where it goes. I know why he doesn’t want to eat, but how can I get him to get at least half of his regular intake?

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      I wouldn’t worry about any eating, only the liquids. Can you give him Tylenol or similar through a suppository to ease his pain? If he doesn’t drink and starts showing signs of dehydration, then take him back to his doctor. But you can try to offer him just formula, water and rehydration solution for babies, such as Pedialyte. Offer it often, even if he only takes a tea spoon. If he enjoys suckling on something, you can also try to dip a piece of a small bed sheet or towel and let him suck on it. Anything that makes him drink.

      His appetite for eating will come back when he starts feeling better. I know it can be scary to see a young baby refuse to eat, but in my experience, they often compensate afterwards, with a huge appetite.

      Good luck and let us know how things go.