The Truth About Your Baby’s Hunger Strike and How to Help

It’s been days, or maybe even weeks, and your precious baby isn’t eating and drinking like normal. You are about to lose it! It is so frustrating when you have tried everything and your baby isn’t eating. Don’t worry, we can help!

Why Your Baby Isn’t Eating or Drinking

Most often, there is an underlying cause as to why your baby isn’t eating or drinking as much as they used to. Do an internet search, and you will find a ton of frightening, and often incorrect, information about why your baby isn’t eating. There are actually some common reasons for this behavior, and luckily, most of them are not that serious.

Whether breastfeeding, formula feeding, or your baby has graduated to solids, he or she will likely go through periods of increased and decreased eating or drinking. As long as your baby continues to grow and gain weight, there is usually nothing to worry about. Still, what are some reasons your baby isn’t drinking or eating like he used to?

Your Baby Isn’t Eating Because She is Full

It is easy to overlook the fact that your baby might just be full. It is not terribly difficult for little ones to fill up on water, juice, or milk and not feel hungry. Their tiny stomachs are roughly the size of their tiny fists, so it doesn’t take a lot for them to feel full.

It can be harder to tell how much a breastfed baby is eating. As they grow, babies are better able to drink more milk from their mommas in less time. With a shorter feeding, it may simply just appear your baby isn’t drinking as much as she used to.

What You Can Do If your baby is still strictly on liquids, do not give her juice or water. Juices have lots of sugar and empty calories just like sodas. While it may seem like you are adding vitamins to baby’s diet by incorporating juices, formula or breastmilk is all your baby needs at this age.

Additionally, juices should only be used occasionally for babies who have moved on to solid foods. Whole fruit is always a better option whether pureed or cut into bite-sized pieces.

Your Baby Isn’t Eating Because He is Teething

Right when you think you’ve got a handle on this parenting thing, along comes teething to say “nope, sorry.” Teething is simply very painful for babies. Whether your baby is still on liquids or has moved on to solids, the act of eating is not a priority when he is in so much pain.

What You Can Do Invest in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones! Seriously, though, pain from teething can be relieved in multiple ways. A frozen or chilled teething ring, baby spoon, or wash cloth that your baby can chew on is ideal. The cool on his gums will help to numb the pain.

However, if your baby isn’t drinking or eating due to teething pain, they may be leery to put anything in their mouths. In that case, acetaminophen in suitable doses for babies can alleviate some of this pain allowing your baby to eat.

Your Baby Isn’t Eating Because She is Sick

Like us, when babies are sick, they often lose their appetites. Most likely your baby isn’t drinking or eating when they need the fluids and nutrients the most. This can be exceptionally frustrating and even heartbreaking for us as parents.

What You Can Do It can sometimes be hard to tell if your baby is sick unless they are displaying obvious symptoms like coughing and sneezing. If you suspect sickness is causing your baby not to eat, it is important to take her temperature. Anything above 100.4℉ requires a trip to the doctor’s office. If your baby is not running a fever, wait and see if her appetite returns before going to the doctor.

Your Baby Isn’t Eating Because He is Distracted or Tired

It can be harder to recognize when your baby isn’t drinking or eating due to being distracted or tired. If your child is anything like mine, being “tired” looks like a tornado on 2 feet blowing through every room of the house screaming and laughing all the way. If only my “awake time” looked like that, I’d accomplish so much more. She is definitely not interested in eating at this point in time.

Likewise, distractions like the television, tablets, or toys are often the main culprits when your baby isn’t drinking or eating. Your baby is still taking in so much of this new world, and therefore, even simple things we forget about can distract him. Think: shadows on the wall; birds chirping outside the window; and your pets tip-toeing through the house.

What You Can Do Beginning a feeding routine can help the distracted eater. If your baby is still on liquids, find a quiet, calm place to feed him and make this your “spot.” When you go to this spot, your baby knows it is time to eat.

Older babies will eat better with a routine, as well. Always turn off the television, and eat your meals at the dining room table once your baby can sit in a high chair. Do not allow electronic devices to be present during meals. Developing this routine can benefit your entire family in the long run.

Additionally, try to plan baby’s feeding around his naps and bedtime. It seems as if my own daughter just completely loses her mind when she’s tired. See above tornado reference. When sleepy, it is difficult for your baby to concentrate on much of anything. So feeding him when he’s more alert is a good practice.

What to Watch for if Your Baby Isn’t Eating or Drinking

In most cases, your baby will continue eating and drinking when they are ready. However, there are some things you should watch for if your baby isn’t drinking or eating.


Since babies have very low body weight, they are more prone to dehydration than adults. A few symptoms of dehydration in babies include:

  • excessively sleepy or fussy
  • sunken eyes
  • no tears when crying
  • fewer wet diapers
  • rapid breathing

If your baby isn’t drinking or eating and is displaying the above listed symptoms, it is important to take her to the emergency room right away. Babies dehydrate faster than adults and are faster to succumb to it.

Slowed Growth

If your baby isn’t eating or drinking consistently, he may have a slower growth rate, or failure to thrive. Your doctor can help determine if your baby is suffering from slower growth by comparing his height and weight and making sure they are proportionate to babies in his age group.

Your Baby Isn’t Drinking or Eating for Extended Periods

If your baby isn’t drinking or eating at all for more than one day, you should consult with your doctor. As we’ve mentioned, it does not take long for babies to become dehydrated, and this can lead to bigger problems.

Other Things You Can Do if Your Baby isn’t Drinking or Eating

First of all, relax, you’ve got this! Most often, the reason your baby isn’t drinking or eating like he once was is not a serious one. Next, it is a good idea to eliminate juice or other sugary beverages from your baby’s diet, if you haven’t already. Additionally, you can make sure you are feeding your baby healthy alternatives, so they aren’t filling up on junk food or empty calories.

Furthermore, establishing an eating routine that reduces distractions can help to regulate your baby’s eating habits. It is important to note that if your baby isn’t eating, you should never force feed him. It is essential to trust that your baby knows when he is hungry and will eat at that time.

Finally, monitor your baby’s condition. If he is running a fever of over 100.4℉, it is important to take him to the doctor right away. Other concerning signs that may warrant a doctors visit include:

  • weight loss
  • lethargy
  • vomiting or diarrhea
  • gagging on food
  • stomach pain

Your baby’s unwillingness to eat or drink like he used to will usually work itself out with a little help from you. Even so, it is vital to stay attuned to clues that he may need to see the doctor. Most importantly, do not stress! You’ve got this parenting thing down.