- What causes overfeeding in babies?
- What are the signs of overfeeding?
- What are the complications of overfeeding a baby?
- How to prevent overfeeding in babies?
Did it ever occur to you that you could be overfeeding the baby?
A baby may not be able to tell when they are full or if they had enough. But there are ways to know if your infant is getting the right amount of food. In the same way, you must look for signs if a baby is being overfed.
Read this MomJunction post for all the details about signs of overfeeding in babies, and ways to prevent it.
[ Read: Formula For Babies ]
What Causes Overfeeding In Babies?
Things that lead to overfeeding in babies include:
- Feeding milk or formula through bottle: Formula-fed infants are at a higher risk of overfeeding because formula milk is usually fed through bottles (1). Bottles allow a free flow of milk, so the baby keeps getting a constant drip of milk even when they are full. A baby can overfeed on cow milk (if they are older than one year) and breast milk in other cases (2). Breast fed babies are usually not overfed.
- A large feeding bottle: A study noted that infants fed from larger feeding bottles are often overfed and thus tend to become overweight. Encouraging the child to finish the entire bottle, regardless of its size, can lead to overfeeding and eventually obesity.
- Coaxing the baby to feed: Babies give you cues when they are full. Some signs include not sucking at the bottle nipple or turning away from the nipple. Some parents may coax the child to feed by putting the nipple in their mouth repeatedly, forcefully overfeeding them.
- Using the bottle as a pacifier: Parents may use the bottle as a means to calm down the baby every time they throw a tantrum, thereby giving them more food than they need. To avoid that, use a pacifier instead of a bottle to calm down a cranky baby.
- Introducing solids early: It is best to give solids to a baby after the age of four months. Starting solid foods sooner can make the baby to eat more than their body needs, which is nothing but overfeeding (3).
Sometimes parents may overfeed their baby and not be aware of it. It is, thus, vital to know about the signs of overfeeding the baby.
What Are The Signs Of Overfeeding A Baby?
An overfed baby will display the following signs:
- Repeated spitting: Babies spit up in general, but may do so more frequently when they are overfed (4).
- Bloating and gas: Drinking from the bottle can cause the baby to gulp a lot of air. It can make the baby’s stomach bloated and cause discomfort.
- More colic than usual: All the bloating, gas and frequent passing of loose stools will create a lot of discomfort for the little one, which will lead to a colicky baby.
- Demand for more than 32oz (1064ml) of formula/breast milk a day: Even babies who are a year old do not require more than 30oz (887ml) of formula milk or breast milk in a day (5). A little over 30oz may not be abnormal but according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a baby demanding more than 32oz (1064ml) of formula or breast milk in a day is unusual and should be checked by a doctor (6) (7).These are the usual signs of overfeeding, which are evident during each feed. Ignoring them can lead to certain complications.
[ Read: How To Prevent Baby From Spitting Up ]
What Are The Complications Of Overfeeding A Baby?
Chronic overfeeding can lead to:
- Overweight and obesity: Since babies constantly get surplus food, they also get excess calories that accumulate within the body and cause abnormal weight gain.
- Makes acid reflux worse: If the baby has acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), then overfeeding can make the condition worse. Babies with GERD will display deterioration of symptoms when they begin to overfeed.
- Vomiting: Overfed babies may vomit after a feed. Chronic vomiting may leave little food for the stomach to digest, thus leading to health problems in the long run.
How To Prevent Overfeeding In Babies?
You may take the below steps to prevent overfeeding:
- Breastfeed: Pediatricians state that the chances of overfeeding are little when you breastfeed the baby (8). Even if the baby holds on to the nipple long after the feed, they will not get a constant supply of milk as they do from the bottle. The baby gets breast milk only when they suckle, which makes overfeeding almost impossible in such cases (9).
- Try paced bottle feeding: Paced bottle feeding is a method of controlling the flow of milk from the bottle. It requires the baby to suck at the nipple just like they would on a breast nipple. Paced bottle feeding tries to mimic breastfeeding and is an excellent means to prevent overfeeding in infants (10).
- Maintain a feeding schedule: Maintain a feeding schedule, and the baby will adjust to it eventually. The baby then gets hungry at the same time each day and should be fed on time to avoid feeding more than usual between long intervals.
- Wait for the hunger cues: Look for signs of hunger like sucking at the fingers or moving their lips when touched gently. A baby who is hungry will latch on the nipple right away. Feed them only when they are hungry.
- Do not force the baby to eat: If the baby is full, then do not force them to feed more. Or you will end up overfeeding them.
Overfeeding a baby is a problem that is easily avoidable by following the right feeding methods. Watch out for the signs of overfeeding and look for hunger cues to provide adequate nourishment without running into the risk of overfeeding the little one.
[ Read: Gas Problems In Babies ]
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2. Spitting Up – Reflux; Seattle Children’s Hospital
3. Feeding Guide for the First Year; Stanford Children’s Health
4. Overfeeding a Baby; St. Lukes
5. Feeding Guide for the First Year; Johns Hopkins Hospital
6. Bottle Feeding Basics; American Academy Of Pediatrics (2012)
7. Amount and Schedule of Formula Feedings; American Academy Of Pediatrics (2018)
8. Nutrition During the Lifecycle INFANCY (0-12 months) ; Nutrition Education
9. 6 ways to help keep your baby at a healthy weight; Harvard Health Publishing (2017)
10. Paced Bottle Feeding; University of Michigan Health System
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