By the end of the first week with a new baby, frequent wake ups and feeding around the clock has become your new normal. So when your baby starts sleeping more and eating less, you might feel a bit unsettled about why that’s happening. Though you do want to look out for any warning signs that may point to an illness, there’s likely a good (and normal) reason for your baby’s change in sleeping and eating patterns.
Here we’ll cover the top 6 reasons your baby might be sleeping more and eating less as well as when it’s time to reach out to your pediatrician.
6 Common Reasons for a Baby Sleeping More and Eating Less
Typically we expect a baby to sleep less and eat more as they grow in their first year. Overall, this is the pattern you will notice. However, there will be times that your baby appears to be needing more sleep and taking in less breastmilk or formula.
More often than not there is a clear reason for this change that’s all part of normal baby development. With that said, we always want to remind you that if you ever feel concerned or have doubts, to reach out to your baby’s doctor. They'll give you the best advice and do a weight check to ensure all is well with your little one.
Following are the most common reasons (outside of sickness) that your baby may be sleeping more and eating less.
1.) Your baby just went through a growth spurt.
In our article, “How Growth Spurts Affect Babies,” we discussed how fast periods of growth generally follow a noticeably large appetite from your baby. When you start to see your baby eating more, you may assume that pattern is here to stay. Instead, your baby may guzzle breastmilk or a formula for a few days, and then simply revert back to the calorie needs she had just a few days prior - as if nothing ever happened.
Indeed, something did happen - and you’ll likely notice when you try snapping up her onesie and it’s suddenly too small.
So when you make those big bottles for your baby and they now only finish half, you may wonder what’s up. The truth is that growth spurts don’t last long. As your baby passes through one you’ll likely notice them eat a bit less while sleeping more. Growing is hard work after all! This is a completely normal pattern that you’ll likely see at various times throughout your baby’s first year.
2.) Your baby is teething.
One of the biggest culprits for an extra sleepy baby who doesn’t want to eat as much is teething. If you haven’t noticed any growth spurt signs from your baby and they’re acting fussy and irritable, it’s highly likely that your baby is having teething discomfort that’s affecting their normal sleeping and eating habits.
Did you know that teething can start 2 months prior to ever seeing a newly popped tooth? Just because you don’t see a sign of any pearly whites doesn’t mean your baby isn’t teething.
The most tell-tale signs of teething include:
- Excessive drooling
- Rash around the mouth
- Refusing to eat
- Ear pulling and rubbing of the cheeks
- More frequent wake ups or sleeping more
Eating less is very common for teething babies. Sleep, on the other hand, can be a mixed bag. You may have a baby who is uncomfortable and is awake all night, or you may have a baby that sleeps a bit more due to feeling “under the weather.” To help your baby stay on track with their eating, consider making milk pops which will also give them soothing relief. As for sleep, we suggest using a Dreamland Baby Weighted Sack to help your baby get just the right amount of zzzs they need.
It’s important however, that you don’t confuse your baby’s teething with an illness. According to Seattle Children’s Hospital, “Teething does not cause fever, diarrhea, diaper rash or runny nose.” So if you see any of these signs, teething is not what is ailing your baby and you should consult a physician right away.
3.) Your baby is experiencing a cognitive leap.
Just as growth spurts can cause your baby’s sleeping and eating patterns to be affected so can those periods of time when your baby goes through a cognitive leap. Though you won’t necessarily see physical growth on the outside, your baby is experiencing mental development, which can be just as exhausting.
This may cause your baby to sleep more and eat less for a few days. You may also find that your baby’s sleep is disrupted even though they’re actually sleeping the same amount - this may look like more wake-ups at night which causes them to take long naps during the day.
The best thing you can do at this time is try to stick to your baby’s routine as much as possible. Though letting them extend their naps a little bit is fine, we suggest focusing on an earlier bedtime instead and helping them relax with a baby massage or using a weighted wearable blanket. This will ensure that they don’t get overtired which can cause more night wake-ups as we discuss here.
4.) Your baby’s sleep patterns are leveling out.
Of course you’ll be able to know if your baby is sleeping more because you can compare it to how many hours they were sleeping in the weeks prior. But there is a possibility that your baby wasn’t getting enough sleep in the first place and is finally on track. It may not be that your baby is sleeping too much at all, but is finally able to connect sleep cycles in a way that makes it seem like they’re snoozing all day long.
Not sure how many hours of sleep your baby should be getting? We have a great chart in our article, “Baby Sleeping Too Much: What’s Normal?” It’s anywhere from 14 - 17 hours in those first few months, and between 12 and 16 hours up to age one is considered typical.
It’s normal to feel a little nervous those first times your baby really starts sleeping in (you’re not at all crazy if you’re peeking in to make sure your baby is still safe and sound). But once you realize it’s because they’re finally sleeping for longer stretches (or even through the night) we know you’ll be singing, “Hallelujah!”
5.) Your baby is getting more nutrients from solid foods.
Though you shouldn’t see much difference in your baby’s appetite when first introducing solid foods, you will likely see a decrease in their liquid calories as they near the age of one. Initially, babies don’t get much nutrition from solid foods and take in very little. This time is more about getting them used to the fact that there is actually more to eating than just breastmilk or formula. But, after 9 months or so, your baby is finally getting the hang of this eating “real food” thing.
By this time they may be eating 3 meals a day plus snacks. They’ll still get the bulk of their calories from their breastmilk or formula, but they will require less. In fact, they may even be starting to self-wean if they suddenly seem disinterested in breastfeeding. Pair this with the fact that your baby is finally sleep trained and sleeping through the night, it will definitely seem like your baby is sleeping more and eating less.
6.) Your baby just had a vaccination.
This one will be easy to pinpoint. If your baby had any vaccinations within the last few days, more sleep and a reduced appetite are normal. The CDC writes, "any vaccine can cause side effects such as tiredness and low grade fever." As you yourself know, eating just isn't as much fun when you're not feeling well.
In this situation, it’s best to let your baby rest up as needed until they're back to their normal selves. If your baby seems extra irritable and isn't getting the sleep they need, an early bedtime If they're not back on track with their sleeping and eating within a few days, we suggest you reach out to your child's doctor.
When Sleeping More and Eating Less Requires a Visit to the Pediatrician
Though your baby’s increased sleep and reduced food intake is likely a normal part of their development, you do want to be cognizant of any symptoms that might require a visit to your baby’s pediatrician.
If you’re ever in doubt, reach out to them! As a new parent, no question is ever a dumb question, and that’s what they’re there for. Worst case scenario, they tell you your baby is just fine and it puts your mama heart at ease.
The following key symptoms have been outlined by WebMD as the times you need to contact your baby’s pediatrician right away:
- A fever above 100.4 for a baby under 2 months old; an older child with a fever accompanied by irritability, refusal to eat, or constant crying needs to be seen by a doctor. Additionally, a baby with a fever persisting for 3 days or more needs a look from a pediatrician.
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Signs of dehydration such as fewer than 6 wet diapers per day in infants, dark urine, or sunken eyes
- Colds or respiratory infections accompanied by fever
- A rash that doesn’t go away in a few days or is accompanied by a fever
- You have trouble waking your child
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Reaching out to your doctor when you feel concerned is ALWAYS best.
Final Word on Fluctuating Food and Sleep Patterns
It is normal for your baby's sleep and eating needs to ebb and flow throughout the first year. By the time your baby is one, they will require less sleep as well as less liquid calories. However, there will be times that you'll notice they need more sleep and less food, or vice versa. Paying attention to the signs your baby is giving will help you determine if this is a normal period your child is experiencing or if you'll want to reach out to medical professional for advice.