11 Common Baby Feeding Problems – Solved!

How to handle 11 of the most common feeding problems and difficulties from birth to 3 years of age? Whether you’re trying to balance breast and bottle, your little one isn’t eating, they’re a picky eater, or you’re having difficulty feeding them for another reason, we’ve got you covered!

1. Baby is spitting up

When it could occur: Most often, in the first 6-8 months of life

What it looks like: Baby often regurgitates breastmilk, formula, or food during or after a feeding.

How to solve it: Spitting up is perfectly normal – it happens because baby’s digestive system is still developing, and the muscle between baby’s stomach and esophagus doesn’t always close tightly. This means it’s easy for the contents of baby’s stomach to come back up. As long as your pediatrician says baby is thriving and gaining weight well, baby seems happy when they spit, and baby is wetting around 6-10 diapers daily, you don’t have to worry.

There are ways to reduce spit-up, though. Burp baby regularly during and after every feed, and keep them upright during feeds and for at least a half an hour afterwards. Don’t bounce or engage in active play with them for 20-30 minutes after a feed. You should also feed them only when they are hungry – don’t overfeed your little one.

2. Baby is forcefully spitting up, and they seem distressed

When it could occur: Most often, in the first 6-8 months of life

What it looks like: Baby often regurgitates breastmilk, formula, or food during or after a feeding – and they usually cry, appear to be in pain, or even choke. Baby might also spit up very forcefully, followed by crying.

How to solve it: Baby might have GERD – gastroesophageal reflux disease. Visit your pediatrician as soon as you can for a diagnosis (and treatment, if they do have GERD).

Since around half of GERD cases are caused by milk allergies or milk intolerances, you might also need to switch formulas under a doctor’s guidance if you’re feeding baby a milk-based formula.

3. Baby prefers the breast over the bottle

When it could occur: If you want to feed your breastfed baby pumped breastmilk, and are trying to introduce a bottle

What it looks like: Baby has no problem breastfeeding. But you’d also like to pump your breastmilk and introduce a bottle for flexibility, including so your partner or another caregiver can bottle feed baby. When you try to introduce the bottle, though, baby won’t take it – they fuss and will only feed from the breast.

How to solve it: Try leaving the room or house while someone else feeds your little one, as baby might not want the bottle if they know your breasts are available. You might also try varying bottle feeding locations or positions, or choosing a bottle that more closely mimics your breasts. Our list of tips for overcoming bottle refusal might help you out as well.

4. Baby prefers the bottle over the breast

When it could occur: If you have introduced a bottle to your breastfed baby

What it looks like: Once you’ve introduced a bottle of breastmilk (or formula as a supplement) to your breastfed baby, baby only wants to drink from the bottle. They fuss and refuse the breast when you try to nurse.

How to solve it: Choose a bottle that’s designed to closely mimic the feel of your breasts, as well as the flow of milk from your breasts. This way, it won’t be easier for baby to get the milk out of the bottle – a factor that often leads to breast refusal. A breast-like bottle will have a slow flow, and will require baby to work to get the milk out, just like they must do during a nursing session. It will also require the same type of latch that baby needs to drink milk when nursing.

In addition, you might try using the same routine when giving the bottle and starting a nursing session, including skin-to-skin contact. Or, try switching up your feeding position. Our article with tips for stopping nipple confusion has even more strategies to try.

5. Baby favors breastmilk/formula and won’t eat much solid food

When it could occur: Between 4 and 12 months of age, once you’ve introduced solids

What it looks like: Baby is drinking lots of breastmilk or formula, but doesn’t want much – or any – of their solids when you try to feed them solids.

How to solve it: Breastmilk or formula is still baby’s main source of nutrition in their first year of life, so it’s normal – and expected – for the bulk of baby’s diet to be breastmilk or formula. Still, baby should start exploring a variety of different solids once they’re developmentally ready.

Start out a meal with breastmilk or formula, then follow that up with solids. Solids are still new to your little one. If baby’s too hungry, they might prefer breastmilk or formula because they don’t have to use the new skills of munching and chewing (and breastmilk or formula is an easier way to satisfy that hunger).

6. You’re not sure how to balance baby’s breastmilk/formula and solids intake

When it could occur: Between 4 and 12 months of age, once you’ve introduced solids

What it looks like: When you introduce solids during the first year, you’re not sure how much breastmilk or formula baby should consume per day, and how much solids they should eat in a day.

How to solve it: As long as your baby is following a healthy growth pattern, and you’re introducing solids when baby is ready, there’s no need to worry.

As a general rule, babies 4-8 months of age (who have started solids) should drink 3-5 servings of breastmilk or formula in a day – up to 32 ounces per day. They’ll also have 1-3 small solids meals per day.

Babies 8-12 months of age should drink 3-4 servings of breastmilk or formula in a day – around 16-32 ounces per day. They’ll also have 3 small solids meals per day.

For more details about how much to serve when introducing solids in the first year, check out our guide to what baby eats in a day.

7. It’s difficult to introduce common allergens to baby

When it could occur: Between 4 and 12 months of age

What it looks like: As landmark studies and medical guidelines show, it's important to introduce common allergens to your little one in their first year of life – as early as 4 months of age – to give them the best chance at a healthier future. (Common allergens include peanut, egg, milk, tree nuts, wheat, soy, and sesame.) When introducing these allergens, consistent exposure is key. But it can be time-consuming and frustrating to introduce these foods starting as early as 4 months of age, especially if baby is a picky eater or isn’t yet ready for solids.

How to solve it: Ready. Set. Food! is an easier way to introduce common allergens and help give baby the best chance at food freedom.

Our Stage 1 and Stage 2 Mix-Ins introduce peanut, egg, and milk, and can safely mix with a bottle of breastmilk or formula (as well as baby’s favorite purees). So, it’s easy to consistently introduce those allergens daily, as early as 4 months of age – even if baby isn’t yet ready for solids.

Then, for babies eating solids regularly, Ready. Set. Food! Stage 3 Mix-Ins and Organic Baby Oatmeal are easy ways to consistently introduce 9 top allergens (peanut, egg and milk, plus wheat, soy, sesame, and three types of tree nuts).

8. Your little one refuses to eat

When it could occur: Between 1 and 3 years of age

What it looks like: Your child eats a good amount of food one day, but the next day, they refuse meals outright.

How to solve it: Your little one might not be hungry. Compared to their first year, they’re growing a lot less, so their appetite could vary greatly from meal to meal and from day to day. They might eat more when they’re going through a sudden growth spurt, then not be hungry for nearly as much once that spurt is over.

Other reasons your child might not be hungry are if they haven’t been active enough to work up an appetite, or if they’ve had so much milk that their drinks fill them up too quickly. If they are sitting around all day, or drinking lots of healthy-but-filling cow’s milk, they won’t be nearly as hungry at mealtimes. So, make sure that they have plenty of playtime and that they’re not filling up on milk.

9. Your little one is grazing

When it could occur: Between 10 months and 2 years of age

What it looks like: Your baby or toddler would rather fill up on quick little snacks throughout the day than larger meals, because they want to move around and play. (After all, they’re able to move around more easily as they learn to crawl and then walk!) As a result, it’s harder to get them to eat a balanced diet.

How to solve it: Think of snacks like parts of a day-long meal – give your little one healthy snacks like fruit pieces, veggie matchsticks, and shredded cheese. (This is a great idea even if your little one isn’t a grazer!)

It’s also important to encourage your little one to be at the table for family meals, since meal food tends to be healthier than snack food and healthy habits are formed in the first few years of a child’s life. If your grazer is 2 years old or older, it’s best to limit them to 1-2 snacks per day and then offer them lots of different foods at the table for meals.

10. Your little one doesn’t want to try new foods

When it could occur: Usually, between 18 months and 3 years of age

What it looks like: Your little one enjoys the meals that they’ve had many times before, but won’t touch anything new that you put in front of them.

How to solve it: Keep serving new foods to your child, and don’t give up if they don’t want to eat new meals. It often takes 10-15 exposures to a food before a child learns to love it. Showing how much you enjoy the food (“modeling” your love for the food) is another great strategy, and so is letting your child sniff and touch the new food with no pressure to eat it.

11. Your little one is a picky eater

When it could occur: This often happens in the toddler years (18 months-3 years)

What it looks like: Your little one only likes to eat certain foods, will only eat foods that aren’t touching, or otherwise will only eat a limited assortment of foods.

How to solve it: Picky eaters can be picky for several reasons, including because they want control over the situation and because they feel more comfortable with the familiar. The best ways to encourage your picky eater to try and love new foods depend on the type of picky eater they are.

Find strategies for helping your picky eater enjoy lots of different foods in our guide to the types of picky eaters.

Here are some strategies that work well for encouraging several different types of picky eaters to be more adventurous:

  • Putting a small amount of food on your little one’s plate, but giving them control over whether they take a bite or not.
  • Giving your little one a bit of the new food to look at, sniff, and touch outside of a mealtime, to get them used to it.
  • Involving your little one in simple meal prep tasks.
  • Serving small amounts of new food alongside old favorites (again, with no pressure to eat the new food).

Introduce Allergens Safely and Easily with Ready. Set. Food!

All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  If your infant has severe eczema, check with your infant’s healthcare provider before feeding foods containing ground peanuts.