If it works for you and your little one, breastfeeding is a great choice. One of the possible downsides, though, is that you never know how much your baby is drinking. This can be a worry for mamas who wonder if their baby is getting enough. But what about the flipside? Can you overfeed a breastfed baby?
In this article: 📝
- Can a breastfed baby overeat?
- When to worry about overfeeding a breastfed baby.
- How do I know if my breastfed baby is overfed?
- Can I overfeed my baby with breast milk from a bottle?
Can a breastfed baby overeat?
First, the reassuring news: it’s very unusual for breastfed babies to overfeed.
Not only are they good at self-regulating (stopping when their tummies are full), but your body is also great at making the right amount of milk for your baby as they grow.
Your milk supply might take a few days to adjust (hence the joy of cluster feeding in newborns or waking up with really full boobs when your baby sleeps through the night), but you’ll get there together.
The other thing to remember is that babies breastfeed for lots of different reasons:
- They might need comfort.
- They might be going through a growth spurt or a developmental leap and need the extra calories.
- It might be their favorite way to go to sleep.
So even if your baby’s marathon feed has left you wondering “how long should you breastfeed a newborn?”, or if you’ve noticed that your little one wants to feed more often, or for a longer time, than their formula-fed friends, it doesn’t mean that your baby is overfeeding.
When to worry about overfeeding a breastfed baby.
While it is difficult to overfeed a breastfed baby, it does sometimes happen if you have what’s called an “oversupply” of breastmilk (i.e. your body is making more than your little peanut can drink in a day).
Overfeeding can also happen if you have an imbalance in the amount of “foremilk” (the more watery, thirst-quenching milk that comes first) and “hindmilk” (the fatty, nutrient-rich milk that babies get when they start to suck more slowly and deeply).
Too much foremilk coming too quickly can fill up their tummies before they get to the hindmilk they really need.
How do I know if my breastfed baby is overfed?
So, can a breastfed baby overeat? Sometimes, and not on purpose. These are the main signs you’ll get from an overfeeding baby, particularly in the case of a foremilk imbalance:
- Coughing and spluttering, especially at the beginning of a feed
- Arching their back and pulling away
- Spitting up a lot of milk
- Pain from trapped gas
- Greenish or foamy poops
If oversupply is the issue, your boobs will probably let you know as well. Here are the signs of oversupply in breastfeeding mamas:
- Your boobs get “engorged” – full, hard, and really uncomfortable – before your baby is ready to feed.
- Milk leaks from one side when you feed on the other.
- You frequently have blocked ducts or develop mastitis.
What to do
First off, we’d always recommend talking to a lactation consultant if you think your baby is overfeeding.
It might be that the problem will correct itself as your baby gets bigger, so usually, the best advice is to keep feeding on demand and wait for your body to get the idea.
There are also some things you can do to make yourself a little more comfortable and to make it a bit easier for your baby to drink.
Try natural remedies
Some herbs can reduce your milk supply slightly. The most common are sage and mint.
On the other hand, foods like oats, barley, fennel, and fenugreek are thought to speed up milk production, so it’s probably best to avoid those.
Hand express some milk
Expressing a little bit of milk before nursing can help to correct an overfeeding issue, but it’s important not to express too much, or your body will get the wrong idea and start making even more milk.
Nursing when lying down means you’ll have gravity on your side to slow the flow.
Can I overfeed my baby with breast milk from a bottle?
There are two main reasons why formula-fed babies overfeed more often than their breastfed buddies:
- The person making their bottle uses too much powdered formula.
- The person feeding them encourages them to finish the bottle, even if they’re already full.
While the first one isn’t a concern with breastfed babies, can you overfeed a breastfed baby with a bottle?
The answer is yes, because it can be very tempting to try to get your baby to finish a bottle of expressed breastmilk–you worked hard to make that!
The bottom line is, watch your baby’s cues, and talk to your lactation consultant or pediatrician if your baby shows signs of being overfed.
And don’t forget to connect with the mamas on Peanut–lots of us have been there before and can offer advice!
🍼 You might like:
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31 Best Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms
What is the Best Breastfeeding Diet?
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Caffeine and Breastfeeding: What to Know
Your Breasts after Breastfeeding: What’s normal?
Signs of Ovulation While Breastfeeding
10 Foods to Increase Milk Supply
How to Stop Breastfeeding (When You’re Ready)
Tips for Breastfeeding with Large Breasts
What is Power Pumping and Does it Work?
How to Warm Up Breast Milk Safely