Nobody wants to think of their baby going hungry, but is there a danger of going too far in the opposite direction? Can you overfeed a newborn?
Thankfully, while overfeeding a baby is technically possible, it’s pretty difficult to do. Once you’ve learned how your little one says that they’re full, you can really take overfeeding off your list of worries.
Let’s break it down. 📝
- What happens if you overfeed a newborn?
- When is a newborn or baby most likely to overfeed?
- How to avoid overfeeding a newborn
What happens if you overfeed a newborn?
Can a baby eat too much? Sometimes.
If a young baby regularly continues to feed after their tummies are full, it can make them feel pretty uncomfortable. Signs of an overfeeding in a breastfed baby (that go for overfed formula-fed babies too) include:
- Vomiting or regurgitating feeds
- Spitting up frequently
- Excess gassiness or burping
- Crying after meals
- Loose or runny stools
- Sleep disruption
- Excess weight gain
Many of these symptoms can be signs of other problems like colic or acid reflux, but there will usually be other things to look out for in these cases. You can always check with your pediatrician or mamas of other colic babies if you have any concerns.
So how do you avoid overfeeding?
The amount of milk or formula a newborn baby needs at each feed is usually less than three ounces. Even when they’re three months old, five ounces would be considered a big feed. That said, some babies may need more, while others will prefer less.
And how do you know exactly how much your little one needs? The good news is that they’ll usually make it clear. When they stop drinking and pull away, their tummy is full. There’s a lot that newborns have to learn, but they’re good at self-regulating their feeds.
When is a newborn or baby most likely to overfeed?
There are a few circumstances when your little one might show typical signs of hunger for other reasons. So if you’re asking yourself, “why is my newborn always hungry?” if they seem like they’re hungry, but they only just ate, or they’re asking for milk and then refusing to have a proper feed, the problem might actually be:
- lack of sleep or sleep disruption (this time we’re talking about them, not you)
- a routine of feeding to sleep, which means they look for the bottle or breast when they really just want to rest.
- an active sucking reflex, where they continue to suck without controlling the flow of milk and end up taking too much.
Breast vs. bottle: can you overfeed a breastfed newborn?
However you choose to feed your little one, it bears repeating that while it is possible to overfeed a newborn, overfeeding is rare. In general, though, bottle-fed babies are more likely to overfeed than breastfed newborns.
When you’re nursing, you can’t see the amount your little one is drinking, and you have no choice but to follow their cues. On the other hand, parents who choose to bottle feed have a much better idea of how much their baby drinks at certain times. If there’s a day when they’re not quite as enthusiastic, it’s easy to encourage them to finish their usual bottle for the sake of it, even if they’re just not quite as hungry.
The other reason that it’s easier to overfeed formula-fed babies is that they can get too many calories if you use too much powdered formula to make up their bottle. So always make sure that the person making the bottles is following the instructions to the letter.
How to avoid overfeeding a newborn
The best way to avoid overfeeding is to learn the cues your baby is giving you.
Tell-tale signs that your baby is full include:
- Taking longer breaks in between sucks
- Relaxing and falling asleep
- Opening their hands and extending their fingers
- Pushing the breast or bottle away
- Closing their mouth, fussing, and even crying when you offer them more
When you see these signals, pause the feed and see how they react. You can even burp them and watch them for a moment to see how content they seem. If they’re chilled, dinner time is probably over for the time being. If they start fussing, rooting around for their food, or putting their hands to their mouth, they might have room for seconds.
Need more tips on feeding?
Check out some of our other resources:
A Nifty Guide to Bottle Feeding
31 Best Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms
What is Baby Led Weaning? Your Guide to Baby’s First Meal
My Baby Won’t Burp: What Now?
How to Clean a Baby Bottle
Newborn Chapped Lips: Why It Happens and What to Do