Can You Overfeed a Breastfed Baby?

Sometime as a breastfeed mother, it can be a concern if you can actually overfed your baby. While you may already heard a lot about how you cannot possible to overfeed a breastfed baby but you cannot help to have this question pop up every now and then even you already know the answer to it.

You will almost always hear this phrase pop up along mother’s conversation “I know we can’t overfed our breastfed baby BUT…". Sound familiar?

It’s no surprise why you would always ask this question especially when you see your baby throw up milk more often then usual or refuse your breast. If you still confuse on whether can you overfeed a breastfed baby and want to get a definite answer, do keep on reading and I guarantee that you will get this million dollar question answered.

Why It’s Impossible to Overfeed a Breastfed Baby?

Here are a few observations…

  • According to research, breastfed babies between the ages of 3-12 months grow slower than formula fed ones. This is a clear indication that the bottle fed babies feed a whole lot more that the breastfed peers.

    This claim is further supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) in their 2006 research on optimum growth of breastfed babies. WHO found out that babies whom are predominantly breastfed achieve optimum growth compared to their bottle-fed peers whom can grow above the optimum growth rate.
  • Do you know that a baby use 40 different kind of facial expressions when breastfeeding; it is hard work, and it takes a lot of effort for your baby to suck the milk out from your breast.

    I would like to think that it's like a knight trying to fight his way into the castle guarded by a dragon...Yikes!

    So if a baby is not in need of nourishment to fight illness, entertainment due to boredom, comfort, pain relief, hydration, anxiety or hunger, then she probably won't breastfeed.

    While babies feed for countless reasons but it’s biological impossible to overfed your baby. Oh…, do you know that your baby might suckle just to soothe her gums due to teething? Learn more about baby teething 101.
  • When your baby is breastfeeding at first, they suck and swallow larger amounts of milk, later on; it is more of sucking without swallowing. I called this ‘jolly suckle’ that baby do to get comfortable and also a sign of falling into sleep.

    While it’s possible for your baby do draw a bit more milk that they need but they will slow down when they start feeling full so making it impossible to overfeed them.

Why It’s Possible to Overfeed a Bottle-fed Baby?

feeding bottle can overfed baby

Now you know that you can’t overfed a breastfed baby but that does not mean it’s true for bottle-fed baby too. It's always possible to overfed a bottle-fed baby and here are the reasons...

  • Taking milk from a feeding bottle whether they are human milk or formula milk, it takes less energy compared to breastfeeding. Feeding bottle are designed to draw out the milk with ease, unlike direct feed from breast that require a little more effort to draw out the milk.
  • Babies biologically have an active sucking reflex; they have limited ability to stop or signal when they have had enough. It’s possible that your baby might not feel full if they gulp down the milk too fast as the body cannot react in time to inform the brain that she is full. Such situation can result in lactose overload and can be bad for your baby.
  • Babies have a tendency of falling asleep while sucking. In fact, that is one of the most efficient ways to get them to sleep. While it is fine if your baby fall into sleep while breastfeeding, but it’s not a great idea for bottle-fed baby. Since sucking from feeding bottle takes less energy, it’s possible that your baby might draw in more milk if she is sucking for the purpose of sleeping and not hunger.
  • The convenience of feeding your baby using a feeding bottle is that you get to put in more milk into the container compared to a breast. While sometime you might think that it’s a good idea to feed more milk to your baby so that they can be well fed but it’s not recommended.

    Although your baby might be able to drink up the whole bottle of milk that you gave but that does not mean it’s beneficial to her body. Always feed your baby according to the recommended amount of milk by your doctor and not overfed them.
  • Generally, a mother should breastfeed on demand. A baby usually feed for every 2 – 3 hours and each feed is about 15 – 30 minutes.

Feeding bottle tends to make a mother overfed their baby. So be mindful if you feeding your little precious using a milk bottle.

How Do You Know If You've Overfed Your Baby?

While it is not possible to overfeed a breastfed baby but sometime it just happen without you realizing it. Especially for the bottle-fed mommies, the likelihood to overfed your baby is higher. To know if you have overfed your baby, start by paying attention to these telltale signs…

  • Nappy change. If you get 8 – 10 heavily wet nappies at the end of the day it might indicate that you might have overfed your baby.
  • Optimum weight. If your baby gain weight significantly above the optimum weight gain chart by WHO, it is a sign that you might overfed your baby.
  • Other indicators are: frequent sloppy and foul-smelling bowel motions, extreme flatulence, excessive belching, milk regurgitation, irritability, and frequent sleep disturbance.

What Should You Do If You Overfed Your Baby?

Pay attention to satiety cues. Satiety means the baby has had enough. Babies attempt to withdraw from the breast or bottle once they are full. Do not overlook such telltale-sign because you might end up forcing your baby to consume more than she need.

Feed slowly or block-feed. It takes time for the brain to register that it is feeding, and to expect the stomach to be full. Feeding quickly increases the likelihood of your baby to swallow more than what is needed by her body. Slow feeding or block-feed ensures that your baby takes enough for her stomach and for the digestive system to handle comfortably.

Feeding-Sleep association. It might be hard to differentiate when your baby yearns for sucking as a result of hunger or it is for soothing purposes. It is, therefore, advisable to use a pacifier when she get cranky and see if she will go to sleep. If she does not, then continue back to feeding as she might still be hungry.

If all the above does not help, seek advice from Internation Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE).

Million Dollar Question Answered

There you have it. I hope this article managed to get your million dollar question answered on ‘can you overfeed a breastfed baby’. If you find any part of this article to be helpful, please help to share it out to anyone that might be interested to know this information. As always, stay AWESOME and will write again soon.

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