A lot of moms worry about whether they’re feeding their baby enough, especially when they’re breastfeeding. That’s why we’ve got an entire series on whether you’re producing enough milk, and what to do if you think you aren’t.
But the opposite can also be a problem. You might not have ever considered the issue. Can you overfeed a baby? How do you know if that’s happening? What happens if you are, and what can you do about it?
Can you overfeed a baby?
The short answer is yes, but the long answer is a little bit more complicated than that.
First off, there’s actually a difference in overfeeding practices between breastfed and bottle fed babies. According to studies, babies that breastfeed find it a little bit easier to regulate how much they’re eating, because of a little something called “eating by demand”.
Basically, this means that a baby that’s breastfeeding is in control of how much they take, but when you’re holding the bottle, you’ve got a lot more control which might push the baby into feeding patterns that they otherwise might not have done themselves. A quick and easy example is mommy seeing that there’s only a tiny bit of milk left in the bottle and gently persuading the baby to finish it.
Once or twice, that doesn’t hurt but added up over every feed on every day, and baby will soon start to pack on more pounds than they should be!
Moms might also worry that baby isn’t getting enough nutrition, or just want to make sure that their child is growing up strong and healthy, so they add supplementation to bottle formula like cereals or juices.
Last, there’s the fact that breast milk is a little easier for baby’s tummy to digest, and is digested a little bit more fully than formula milk, meaning that it’s easier for their bodies to regulate what’s being taken in.
But all of this doesn’t matter to most moms. What you need to know is, are you overfeeding your baby, and what can you do about it?
Signs that you might be overfeeding your baby
Big things first. Just because your baby is chubby doesn’t mean they’re being overfed!
Like everyone, babies come in all shapes and sizes, and just because they’re carrying a few more cutesy little chub rolls doesn’t mean that they’re eating too much, and it also doesn’t mean that they’re going to have any health issues.
Because of this, it’s actually really hard to tell if you’re overfeeding your baby in the first year or two of their lives.
It’s highly recommended that you track your baby’s weight, as well as letting your pediatrician do so.
Doing this lets you see whether there have been any unhealthy spikes in weight, and also helps you know if you’re underfeeding.
In the meantime, the best thing to do is to follow healthy life habits and make sure that you’re doing the right things.
Signs of overfeeding
- Your baby is gaining more weight than they should be or gaining weight in rapid spikes
- Overfull, sloppy or bad smelling poops, or over eight full nappies a day
- Excess wind, with deep burps or frequent flatulence
- Regurgitating milk more frequently than usual
- Sleep issues, or general irritability
How to manage overfeeding
- Breastfeed if you can. It’s not an option for all women, but if you get the chance, we believe that you should at least give it a try.
- Don’t give your baby anything with sugars or other sweeteners in, such as juice and other sweet drinks.
- Follow a fresh, healthy diet plan as soon as baby moves onto solids.
- Control your baby’s eating habits, sticking to a more regular feeding plan.
What can cause a baby to overeat
Like all things baby, there’s a lot of issues that can cause this problem, including:
Active sucking reflex or not understanding when baby wants to stop. Especially young (< 6-month-old) babies find it difficult to stop when feeding, as they have a built-in sucking reflex that makes sure they’re getting enough food. Even if they’re full, if you give them the option, they might just keep feeding.
Feeding too fast, or too soon. We’ve all had times where our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. That’s because it takes our brain time to catch up to our stomachs and let us know we’re full. It’s bad when you have a full size adult stomach, but imagine how bad it is for baby. So calm and slow down your feeding times, if you can.
Sleep deprivation or stress. Not getting enough sleep messes with our hormones, and one of the key things hormones do is regulate hunger cues. If baby isn’t getting enough sleep, they might be overfeeding in an attempt to compensate.
Overfeeding by mistake. We discussed this issue earlier, but if baby seems to want to stop, then stop, even if there’s only a tiny smidge of formula left in the bottle. You can always leave it ten minutes and then try again.
Postpartum depression. Postpartum depression has been linked to a propensity to overfeed baby. There are several reasons why this might be the case, ranging from an inability to deal with baby crying so feeding to keep them quiet, to general forgetfulness and mind fog causing more frequent feedings.
If you are suffering from depression, see your doctor as soon as you can to discuss options.
Whilst you might not worry too much about it, overfeeding your child increases their risk of later life obesity and other health issues, so catching it early and starting to implement healthy habits early is a great idea.
Can you overfeed a baby? Yes. But by paying attention to your baby’s needs and learning how they respond around feeding times and how they react when they’re hungry, full, or just a big grumpy, you can make mealtimes that much easier for you both.
If you’re worried that you’re not feeding baby enough, you should read this article and learn what you can do. In the meantime, let us know what you thought of this article in the comments below!