Is your bottle fed baby still hungry?
Sometime's babies think they're hungry when there's actually something else going on! Rowena Bennett explains why, and how you can avoid overfeeding your baby.
Bottle fed baby

If your baby consumes well over the amount of milk expected for his age and size without appearing satisfied, demands frequent feeds, guzzles bottles down like their going out of fashion and gains a lot of weight, then he may be deemed a 'hungry baby'.

Common causes

  • Sleep deprivation: When people (babies included) don’t get enough sleep we increase production of a hormone called ghrelin which stimulates appetite.
  • Misinterpreting hunger cues: Accurately interpreting a newborn baby’s hunger cues is not a simple task owing to the presence of feeding-related reflexes and because many babies have a strong desire to suck. Babies are born with certain reflexes that enable them to feed – e.g. rooting reflex, hand-to-mouth reflex, gape reflex, sucking reflex. These reflexes disappear by three to four months of age. These reflex actions, often interpreted as signs of hunger, can also be triggered at times unrelated to hunger. In addition to hunger most babies under the age of six months also want to suck when tired, bored, uncomfortable, upset, and for pleasure.
  • Feeding too quickly: If a baby feeds too quickly he could consume more milk than he needs before his subconscious brain triggers the release of the hormone leptin which tells him to stop eating. In addition, feeding quickly might not satisfy a baby’s sucking urge. He may want to continue to suck after the feed is completed giving the impression he’s still hungry.
  • Feeding-sleep association: When a baby repeatedly falls asleep while bottle feeding he can learn to link the act of falling asleep with sucking on a bottle. In this case, in addition to hunger he will want to feed whenever he’s tired and ready to sleep.

What to do

  • Make sure your baby gets plenty of sleep. Resolving any underlying sleeping problem is one of the most effective ways to promote a baby’s contentment and resolve the dilemma of how to satisfy a ‘hungry baby’.
  • Prevent your baby from falling asleep while feeding. Keep him awake during feeds or wake him up as soon as he has finished. This will discourage a feeding-sleep association.
  • Space bottle feeds at three to four hourly intervals during the day or on demand during the night if your baby is content to go longer than four hours between feeds.
  • Slow feeding time down to around 20-40 minutes for newborns; 15-30 minutes for babies aged three to six months, and 10-20 minutes for babies over the age of six months. Achieve this by using a slower teat, tightening the bottle ring, or giving baby breaks during the feed.
  • Try a casein-dominant infant formula. Casein describes the type of protein. Casein takes longer to digest compared to whey-dominant formulas.
  • Provide baby with a pacifier or your finger to satisfy his sucking needs between feeds.
  • Offer a little water. While bottle fed babies generally receive sufficient fluids from their feeds (provided formula is prepared correctly) offering 30-60 ml (1-2 ounces) of cooled, previously boiled water once or twice a day, will not harm him.
This article was written by Rowena Bennett 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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