Is It OK For My Baby To Miss A Feed? THE TRUTH REVEALED!

By  Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH | Updated - 10 June 2021

Being a parent is a whole new world and there are anxieties tucked around every corner. As a new mother you have a natural instinct to feed your child, so when they don't eat you begin to panic and ask yourself "is it OK for my baby to miss a feed?"

Firstly, I want you to know that this is a very NORMAL occurrence and a very normal response.

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In today's article I'm going to tell you if it is OK or not for baby to miss a feed, give you break down of WHY your baby may have missed a feed and tell you EXACTLY what to do if your baby has missed a feed!

So let's get right on into it!

Is It OK For My Baby To Miss A Feed?

YES. It is absolutely fine (and normal!) for your baby to miss a feed. 

As long as your little one is still having 6-8 wet nappies a day, is gaining weight and is alert, then missing the occasional feed is absolutely nothing to be concerned about. 

Your baby will probably just make up for the missed feed at the next one.

How often should babies be fed?

Newborn babies should be fed on demand and usually require feeding every 2-4 hours, day and night.

By the time they are 1 month old, they may occasionally miss a feed. This is usually due to the fact that they were having a lovely sleep or took a larger feed than normal at the previous feed. 

Here is a guide as to how often babies usually feed by age:

Age

Feeding Routine

Newborn

Feed every 2-3 hours

2 Months

Feed every 3-4 hours

4 Months

Feed every 4 hours

6 Months

Feed every 4 hours during the day.

Hopefully will able to sleep for longer through the night without a feed.

The above is only a guide and will vary from baby to baby, but most babies need to be demand fed until they are about 4 months of age.

How long can a newborn go without feeding?

A good rule of thumb is that newborn babies should not go longer than 4 hours without a feed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waking babies in the first two weeks of life if they sleep for longer than 4 hours.

Newborns usually lose between 5-10% of their body weight at birth and need to regain this in the weeks after being born. Therefore, they will need to be fed every few hours on-demand. 

While the majority of newborns will demand to be fed regularly, a few do have the ability to sleep through hunger, so it is important that you do not let your little one sleep through a feed at this early stage.

Some newborns can also become very sleepy during a feed especially when they are sorting out their day/night rhythm.

Regular feeding in the early weeks is also essential to establish your milk supply if you are breastfeeding

Top Tip

If your baby is regularly missing a feed and not gaining weight it is advisable to consult your paediatrician.

What counts as a missed feed?

There are TWO types of missed feed. Yes. TWO.

One where your baby goes beyond the normal feeding time with there being 5 or more hours between feeding. 

The second type of missed feed is one where the mother misses a breastfeed but their baby is fed formula or expressed breast milk. 

What to do if a baby skips feeding?

If your baby misses the occasional feed then you don’t need to do anything other than maybe express some milk if you're breastfeeding and feel uncomfortable. 

Check out my Parenting Toolbox Feeding Page to discover my favourite breast pumps and storage bags to get you going!

NOTE

Your baby will usually make up for the missed feed at their next feeding time.

3 Ways to handle missing a feed

  1. Express breast milk if you are feeling uncomfortable.
  2. Wake your baby if they have slept for more than 4 hours.
  3. Ensure your baby feeds well at the next feed.

How to handle baby missing a feed at night

If your baby is under 3 months old then I would recommend you wake your baby for a night feed if they have been asleep for longer than 5-6 hours. 

If they are older than 3 months then missing the occasional night feed is OK (and gives you some well-earned rest) and between 4-6 months they will hopefully, naturally start to sleep through some nighttime feeds anyway.

What should you do if your newborn doesn’t want to eat repeatedly?

If your newborn baby is not feeding repeatedly then this is very different from missing the odd feed.  Reasons for a baby repeatedly refusing to feed can include:

  • Feeding aversion,
  • Pain,
  • Severe reflux/colic,
  • Tongue-tie.

If your baby is consistently reluctant to feed, appears lethargic, slow to respond and is not gaining weight then you should seek urgent medical advice.

5 Reasons Why Baby Is Refusing To Feed

Short-lived conditions that are not as serious as those mentioned above and that may affect your baby’s feeding include:

1. Day-night confusion

Day-night confusion can be helped by making a distinct difference between day and night feeds and making efforts to keep your baby awake during a daytime feed.

2. Teething

If a baby is teething their gums may be sore. Some babies find sucking comforting when they are teething while others will not want to feed. 

3. A temperature due to an ear infection

If your baby has a temperature they may be lethargic, more sleepy than normal and therefore, reluctant to feed. Offer them the bottle or breast as often as you can to make up for full feeds not being taken and consult a doctor if your baby has not taken any milk for over four hours.

4. A tummy bug

If your baby is under 8 weeks of age and has vomiting and diarrhoea then consult your paediatrician.

If they are older than this then you can also offer them cooled boiled water instead of formula. Breastfed babies rarely have a tummy bug and any diarrhoea is usually caused by something you may have eaten and will be short-lived.

If you're at all concerned that what you're eating is upsetting baby's stomach, check out my post about Foods To Avoid Whilst Breastfeeding to learn more.

5. A cold

If a baby has a very stuffy nose they may be reluctant to feed as they will struggle to breathe. You can use a nasal aspirator to clear their nose before a feed to make it easier for them.

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Is It Ok If My Baby misses a feed CONCLUSION

In short, it is perfectly safe and normal for your baby to miss the occasional feed. If your baby is alert, making eye contact, gaining weight, having regular wet nappies and is generally happy, then there is no need to worry!

Stick to the rule of thumb that babies under 3 months should be woken after 4 hours for a feed and that over 4 months of age it is quite normal for your baby to miss a night feed. 

Remember that it is quite normal for mothers to be concerned about their babies feeding as it is the most primal instinct for a mother to want their baby to thrive. 

If you are at all concerned about any aspect of your baby’s feeding then consult an infant feeding specialist or medical professional for some guidance and reassurance.

If you enjoyed this post and know other parents who would enjoy this content, be sure to give it a share! 

As I mentioned in this post if you're looking for products for your little one and you're not sure where to begin, be sure to check out my Parenting Toolbox.

It is full of all my favourite products which I've tried to ensure are all non-toxic, eco friendly, sustainable and, of course, they’re all baby proof!

Do you have any blog recommendations that you'd like me to write about? Drop me an email at [email protected] and let me know. I love hearing from you!

Thank you for your continued support! And until next time, with love and support, happy parenting!

Teething to Tantrums Author

Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the childcare industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.

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