Sometimes formula feeding is seen as the easy alternative to breastfeeding, but as most formula-feeding moms know, it can be a struggle to find a formula your baby likes. Some babies are easygoing and eat anything, but it’s important to know
how to tell if your baby hates formula, and of course, what you can do to get your little one to eat.
If you need proof that there’s no perfect formula for all babies and that you may have to spend time finding the right one for your baby, just take a stroll down the baby aisle at your nearest store. There are so many brands and types that it can feel overwhelming trying to choose the right one. But when it comes to baby formula, there’s no “right one” except the kind that’s right for
your unique baby.
While some babies can tolerate and enjoy any formulas, others may be more sensitive. As a parent, all you can do is keep offering different options, and keep an eye out for signs of poor nutrition. If your baby is having any kind of allergic reactions, including rashes, weird stools, or vomiting, or if they aren’t gaining weight properly, you should definitely let your pediatrician know. You can also consult with a dietitian or nutritionist who can guide you on the healthiest and most suitable formula options for your baby.
In the meantime, here are some ways to decipher why your baby may be fussing when you feed them, or going on an all-out hunger strike.
1 They Don't Like Formula Because They're Used To Breast Milk
If you have recently switched from breast milk to formula, taste and smell may be the reasons your baby hates feeding.
“Mother’s milk is naturally warm and changes in flavor profile regularly based on Mom’s diet,” says
Charisma Garcia, M.D., board-certified pediatrician, Texas Children’s Health Plan The Center for Children and Women, in an interview with Romper. “If your infant has already tried breast milk, he or she may refuse formula because they prefer mother’s milk. Even if your infant has not yet tried breast milk, he or she naturally may still crave it.”
If you think this is why your baby doesn’t want their formula, Garcia recommends you make mealtime as much like breastfeeding as possible: incorporate skin-to-skin contact, warm the formula, and try to match the bottle nipple size to your own if possible.
2 Their Tummies Can’t Tolerate Formula
Around 20% of babies may not be able to
tolerate the lactose in cow’s milk formula, explained the Mayo Clinic, and they can even be allergic to the proteins it contains. According to Parents, babies who are intolerant of cow’s milk will be fussy, gassy, bloated, and have loose stools.
Whether your baby is intolerant to cow’s milk-based formulas, or something about a certain brand just doesn’t agree with them, their tummy also needs time to adjust.
“Keep note of the names of the formulas you have tried and the duration of their use,” says Hiba Matalka, M.S., registered dietitian at Children’s of Alabama, in an interview with Romper. “For example, did you try formula A for three days prior to switching to formula B? It's helpful to avoid making multiple formula changes in one day, but rather to give one to three days between each formula change.”
Garcia adds that you can help your baby get through any gassy or bloated adjustment periods by increasing their tummy time, bicycling their legs to squeeze out some gas, or giving them a belly massage.
3 They're Distracted During Feedings LaylaBird/E+/Getty Images
It may seem like your baby is refusing to drink formula because they hate it, but if they are getting older, it just might be that they’re too distracted to drink. According to Sleeping Should Be Easy, sometimes babies will find more
excitement in exploring their surroundings than drinking, so you should avoid loud or distracting rooms to feed them in.
Garcia adds that babies who once breastfed but are switching to a bottle may get distracted by their old routine and avoid the bottle. “Ask for help,” she suggests. “Let someone else try giving your baby their bottle for the first couple of formula feedings. This allows them to focus on the formula that is in front of them, rather than getting distracted by the allure of potentially getting breastfed.”
4 They're Refusing Formula Because They're Not Hungry
If you have recently introduced solids into your baby’s diet, they may not want to feed as much as they did before. According to Baby Center, if your baby has started solids, they may just be too full to drink. So
the fussiness you see could just be attributed to a full belly.
Apparently, that’s a common thing for lots of parents and babies. “Most families are overfeeding in infancy, leading to issues with weight when solid foods are introduced,” Garcia explains. “This is yet another reason that routine wellness exams for growth parameters are essential. Your doctor can identify if weight is increasing too rapidly and help discuss portion sizes.”
If this is the case, the article suggested trying to feed your baby again a little while later. Hopefully by then, they will have more of an appetite and fuss less when drinking. Matalka recommends keeping some notes to take to your next pediatrician appointment to learn more.
“Recording the volume of formula your baby is consuming in one feeding, along with the frequency of feeding, helps your pediatrician and dietitian estimate the amount of formula your baby is receiving within a 24-hour period,” says Matalka. “If the volume your baby is consuming at one time is too high, this may be resolved by reducing the volume offered at one time and adding an extra feeding.”
5 They Don't Want Formula Because They Aren't Feeling Well
Plenty of adults don’t feel like eating when they’re sick, and some babies feel the same. Baby Center mentioned that if your baby is fussing at feedings, it could be because they have
a cold, a sore throat, or an ear infection. If you see that your baby is feverish, congested, coughing, or just generally fussy, they may be feeling under the weather.
“Please let your pediatrician know if your infant seems ill. It is a common reaction to have less appetite when coming down with an illness,” adds Garcia.
6 The Flow Of Their Bottle Isn't Right
If your baby is fussing at feeding time, it could be that they aren’t happy with the flow of the milk. Baby Care Advice noted
that if your bottle’s nipple is not the right size and speed for your baby — too short, too long, too fast, or too slow — your baby might get frustrated with feeding. Swapping out the nipple for the correct size and speed may be the solution to your baby’s feeding fuss. Garcia seconds this advice, and suggests parents try a variety of bottle nipples until their baby finds one they like. Experts: Hiba Matalka, M.S., registered dietitian at Children’s of Alabama Charisma Garcia, M.D. , board-certified pediatrician, Texas Children’s Health Plan The Center for Children and Women