When bottle-feeders overfeed
While most of us worry our bottle-fed baby isn't getting enough to eat, overeating can actually be more of a common problem
Overfeeding bottle fed baby

Babies tummies can't hold a great deal of milk, so when your baby drinks too much milk, her stomach will feel overloaded and her intestinal tract will not be able to digest all the nutrients. You can lookout for signs of overfeeding, such as:

  • Average or greater than average weight gain
  • Eight or more heavily wet nappies a day
  • Frequent loose, foul-smelling bowel motions
  • Excessive wind/gas
  • Milk regurgitation
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbance

The difference between the symptoms of overfeeding and those of colic, reflux or intolerance, is that the baby displays healthy growth, something that does not occur when a baby has an untreated condition involving his gastro-intestinal tract.

Why is she overfeeding?

Various reasons why a baby might overfeed include:

  • A lack of sleep can upset the hormonal balance that regulates appetite, resulting in increased appetite
  • Parents often interpret a baby's desire to suck as hunger, but babies like to suck when they are tired, bored, uncomfortable, upset and simply because they love to suck
  • Newborn babies have limited ability to signal or stop when they have consumed enough milk owing to their sucking reflex, especially when they feed too quickly
  • It takes time for our brain to register that our stomach is full, so if you have a speed feeder or are using a teat with a fast milk flow, it is likely that your baby will swallow more milk than her stomach can hold
  • A baby with a sleep-feeding association may learn that the way she goes to sleep is with a bottle in her mouth. This means baby might want a bottle when she’s tired but not necessarily hungry
  • A caregiver might attempt to coerce or force the baby to finish the bottle after baby has signalled that she has had enough, and if the sucking reflex is active the baby will continue to drink

Controlling overfeeding

Overfeeding is a more common problem in infancy than underfeeding; however, underfeeding is a more serious problem.

It’s important that you do not to restrict your baby’s milk intake but rather support her to self-regulate her intake.

  • Respond appropriately to your baby’s feeding cues. Stop when your baby wants to stop. Never try to force your baby to take more than she wants.
This article was written by Jane Barry and adapted for Kidspot, New Zealand's favourite parenting resource for Early Life Nutrition.
Breastfeeding is best for babies and provides many benefits. Combined breast and bottle feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of your own breast milk. Always consult your doctor, midwife or health care professional for advice about feeding your baby. This post is part of the Early Life Nutrition story.
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