Can You Overfeed Your Newborn?

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If you are a first-time parent, you likely have many questions on your mind about everything you do for your baby. Most new parents have questions regarding their baby’s feeding habits. Some are concerned that their babies don’t eat enough, while others worry that they overfeed their babies. Is it possible to overfeed a baby?

Overfeeding a baby is nearly impossible, and most worries about a baby’s food intake and appearance are pointless. But just because it’s rare doesn’t mean that it never happens. 

Overfeeding is more common in bottle-fed babies because it’s easier for parents and caregivers to see how much milk the baby consumes. It also takes less effort to drink from a bottle, so bottle-fed babies can get too much milk while feeding. 

If a baby is gaining weight and growing and your pediatrician isn’t concerned, you should not stress. Different babies grow at different rates and eat different amounts.

Babies come with an incredibly sophisticated self-regulation system, so when they’re hungry, they eat, and when they’re full, they stop. 

So when babies turn away from the bottle or breast and refuse to even consider another latch, they’re telling you they’re full. When baby keeps coming back for more, it is a sign that they’re still hungry.

newborn drinking milk
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Overfeeding in formula vs. breastfeeding babies:

The American Association of Pediatrics says that breastfed babies are better able to regulate their feedings by eating to demand. 

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Parents can’t see how much a baby is eating from a breast, while bottle-feeding parents may try to push their baby to finish a bottle. Breastfed babies also digest breast milk more fully. 

This affects how a baby’s body uses its calories. As a result, breastfed babies are rarely at risk for overfeeding. According to leading pediatricians, a full-term newborn drinks 2 ounces of formula per bottle every three to four hours or breastfeeds on-demand or about eight to 12 times a day. 

While these figures will vary with each child, it’s important to remember it’s perfectly normal for a baby not to finish their bottle as long as they’re hydrated and eating enough throughout the day.

Parents may be tempted to add alternatives to a baby’s formula with a bottle, like rice cereal, smoothies, or juice. Your baby shouldn’t drink anything except breast milk or formula, at least for the first year of life. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics warns against adding cereal to your baby’s bottle. It has been linked to excess weight gain. Adding rice cereal to a bottle doesn’t add nutritional value to your baby’s diet. You should never add rice cereal to a bottle without talking to your doctor first.

Baby Drinking Milk

How do I know if my baby is overfed?

If you have a baby who has cute chubby cheeks and heavy thighs, don’t panic! Those could be a good thing. It is not a sign that your baby is obese or will have a problem with obesity later in life.

To avoid overfeeding, parents should:

· breastfeed if possible

· avoid giving baby rice cereals, juice, or sweetened drinks

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· let a baby stop feeding when they want

· introduce fresh, solid, and healthy foods little by little around 6 months of age

For the first two years of life, the AAP recommends the parents track a child’s growth. Your pediatrician should check a baby’s weight and growth at each appointment, and you can track it at home. You can also discuss the baby’s feeding patterns with your pediatrician. Remember, weight is not an indicator that you are overfeeding your baby.

When a baby is overfeeding, spitting up is a typical reaction. Spitting up could be a sign you’ve pushed the baby to take in extra milk that they didn’t need.

If you’re worried that baby is overeating for their their age, or has any symptoms of vomiting, your pediatrician might recommend limiting how many ounces they should drink or how many times they feed. iIn most cases, if the baby is healthy and doing well, feeding changes aren’t necessary.

Symptoms that show baby is overfed:

How to know that you are overfeeding your little one? Watch out for these common signs of overfeeding a baby:

· Gassiness or burping

· Frequent spit-ups

· Vomiting after eating

· Fussiness, irritability, or crying after meals

· Gagging or choking

Many babies do these things regularly, and there’s no reason to panic the moment your baby exhibits these signs. Especially in the first few months of life, it’s common for your baby to spit up regularly without being overfed. 

If you’re still worried, simply keep an eye on if the behaviors repeat over time, and consult with your pediatrician before making any significant dietary changes.

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baby play with toy

How to avoid overfeeding:

If you learn you’ve been overfeeding the baby, try to understand the baby’s cues. Babies give cues during feeding that indicate how hungry they are. Pay attention to these cues to help determine when your baby has had enough to eat.

· A hungry baby will latch on to the breast or bottle and suck continuously.

· A baby who is getting full during feeding will take longer pauses between sucking.

· A full baby will turn away from the breast or bottle and not want to suck.

When to consult a pediatrician

You should contact your doctor if your child fails to reach the appropriate growth markers or shows an excessive increase in weight.

 Similarly, any gastric issues, stomach issues, or behavior problems should immediately be brought to your doctor’s notice.

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