Last updated January 7th, 2021
Feeding is one of the mainstays of a parent’s routine when it comes to caring for babies. However, there are instances that parents tend to overdo it. How do you know if you are overfeeding your baby? What happens to an overfed infant and how can you prevent it?
Table of Contents
Signs of overfeeding
Here’s how you can tell if you’ve overfed your baby:
Perhaps the most immediate sign of overfeeding is regurgitation or otherwise called spit-ups. Spit-ups are common among babies, especially newborns. Usually, the younger a baby is, the more prone to spit-ups they are.
Spit ups are a normal occurrence among younger babies because their digestive tract is still developing and they may have a bit of trouble keeping their food down sometimes.
However, if your baby is spitting up copious amounts, it may be because you’ve overfed them. Spit ups that are several ounces, or thoroughly soak burp cloths should be investigated.
A lot of wet and heavy nappies
Second to spit-ups, another somewhat immediate sign of overfeeding is the frequency and amount of urine. Understandably, the more you drink, the more you pee. The same principle applies to babies.
About six to eight wet diapers are the normal urine output for newborns that are at least a week old. If you find that you are going beyond eight wet nappies and that the nappies are heavy and soaked to the core, it is a sign that your baby may have drank too much.
Foul and frequent stools and gas
When a baby is fed too much and too often, their digestive tract goes into overdrive to compensate and catch up on processing the excess amount of milk.
This means that your baby will poop a lot more. And since the digestive system is overworking, it may not function smoothly. This will result to a lot of gas.
Finally, since the milk passes through the gut in fast-forward mode, the stools will usually be abnormally stinky and have an unusual consistency because it was not digested properly.
Baby gains more weight than the average
If you don’t track your baby’s weight at home, it will likely be your pediatrician or baby’s healthcare provider that will break this news to you.
Unfortunately, if your baby’s weight is already affected by overfeeding, it means that you have been overfeeding your baby for some time already.
Your pediatrician may recommend a feeding plan for your baby which will control their intake so that they do not put on more weight which might become problematic in the future.
Sleep disturbance and Irritability
One of the things you will notice with an overfed baby is sleep problems. Baby’s stomachs are quite small. At birth, it is but the size of a cherry. It expands to the size of an egg after a week.
Now, imagine stuffing that egg-sized stomach with eight full ounces of milk. That’s incredibly uncomfortable. It’s only expected that your baby will fuss and cry about it.
The discomfort is further exacerbated by all the gastric symptoms like loose and frequent bowel movements that make them susceptible to diaper rash, gas and flatulence, and excessive spit-ups and belching. It is an overall unpleasant experience to be overfed.
What causes overfeeding?
Associating feeding with sleep
It’s a common problem among so many parents. Whenever the baby cries, they automatically reach for the bottle. Sometimes, when a baby is tired, they may fuss, but that does not mean that they are hungry.
Whenever it’s bedtime, it is customary for many parents to offer a bottle to help the baby sleep. The truth is this is not necessarily correct. It’s not the full stomach that lulls a baby to sleep but rather the soothing effect of sucking.
This becomes a problem later on when the baby wakes up in the middle of the night and the only way you can make them fall back asleep is by offering a bottle of milk.
Sleep-deprivation is expected among new parents. It’s understandable in the early days because your baby is still trying to establish a sleep routine and setting up their body clock. They may be awake in all odd hours.
Unfortunately, for parents, sleep deprivation can cause a foggy or hazy mental state. It can severely affect memory, which is why they have the term “mom brain”, which is what they call the state of confusion and forgetfulness new moms often experience.
This state of confusion and poor memory can cause parents to forget when and how much they last fed the baby. Most parents will just go on to feed the baby “just to be sure” that the baby was really fed. This can easily cause overfeeding.
Parents think fat babies are healthy babies
Even in this day and age when many people already know the health risks associated with obesity even among children, many parents still want to “fatten up” their kids.
There is this age-old notion that babies need to be fat in order to look healthy. While many babies do develop cute chubby rolls, it’s entirely different and dangerous if parents deliberately overfeed their babies just to make them chubbier.
Unnecessary use of fortified milk
Fortified milk is especially formulated and prescribed by pediatricians for babies who have a hard time gaining weight or are assessed to be undernourished.
Many parents think that giving their babies fortified milk, even if their babies don’t need them is better because it contains more nutrients. Unfortunately, it also contains more calories. Overloading your child with calories that they don’t need will cause them to pack on the weight.
Disregarding baby’s cues
Babies cry for various reasons. One of them is hunger. However, there are plenty of other reasons and it can be hard to tell sometimes if they are hungry, tired, wet, uncomfortable, or in pain.
Sometimes, parents also tend to disregard it when the baby tells them that they are full. A baby cannot verbally inform you that they are full, but will display cues such as turning away from the bottle, unlatching, or pushing the teat out with the toungue.
Strong sucking reflex
In the early days, babies have a strong instinct to suck. This reflex is natural and promotes milk let-down if the mother breastfeeds her baby. This is beneficial as it stimulated milk production in the early days when the mother’s milk is not that plenty yet.
The problem is if a baby is bottle-fed and the parents do not monitor feeding and cues. The baby will want to suckle a lot, so the parents will keep on offering bottles which will result in overfeeding.
Long-term risks of overfeeding your baby
The primary risk of overfeeding chronically is obesity. This will put your child at risk for health problems as he grows up such as: adult obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
On the flip side, an overfed baby can experience growth delays too. This happens if the diarrhea caused by overfeeding is so severe that all of their food is not processed and absorbed properly.
How to avoid overfeeding your baby
Keep notes on feeding schedules
A surefire way to ensure that you are feeding your baby just the right amount is if you kept tabs on it. Keep a baby chart in your house. It should be somewhere that is readily accessible to you such as on the fridge or in the nursery.
Once you’ve started to monitor your baby’s feeding with a chart or an app, it is easier to deduce. You’ll think “Oh, I just fed her 30 minutes ago, so she shouldn’t be hungry right now. Maybe her diaper is just wet.”
The baby chart should monitor the time and amount that you gave your baby some milk. You can make it even more comprehensive by monitoring how many nappies they’ve soiled, and how much sleep they got.
Learn to recognize your baby’s cues
It may take some practice, but if you are attentive enough, your baby will give you clues as to what he or she needs from you so that you don’t have to resort to reaching for the bottle every time your baby cries.
If you know that your baby is just uncomfortable with a wet nappy or just cranky because she’s tired, you’ll address that need instead of just blindly trying to feed her.
You’ll also know if your baby is hungry or just wants to suckle so that instead of offering a bottle of milk, you can offer a pacifier instead.
Research on the right amount to feed per age
Lastly, it’s important that you know how much milk to give your baby depending on their age. A day-old newborn has very different milk requirements than a weeks-old baby and a months-old baby.
On average, a newborn will drink 2 to 3 ounces every 2 to 3 hours. At 2 months, that increases to about 4-5 ounces for each feed. At 4 months, it can be as much as 6 ounces per feed. And at 6 months, babies can gulp down as much as 8 ounces per feed, although they will also go longer stretches without feeding compared to newborns.
We parents have all the control in our babies lives. That is especially true in terms of feeding, and especially when they are still very young. That is why it is our responsibility that they get just the right amount and quality of nutrition to make sure they grow happy and healthy.