Can I overfeed my baby?
The short answer is yes (for bottle-fed babies).
As an exclusively pumping mum, I fed #1 with expressed breastmilk from birth. With my #2, I mixed direct latch and expressed breastmilk, before finally switching to formula at 6 months.
For breastfed babies (direct latch only), I don't know what the right answer is. I know so many midwives and lactation consultants who said that it is NOT possible to overfeed. Instead, I've shared below some of the real experiences some mamas are having with their babies (hope this helps).
For bottle-fed babies
"You're overfeeding your baby with milk." - My paediatrician said this to us when #1 was 2 months old.
Newborns have the natural incline to suck for comfort. That doesn't mean that they are hungry. When you feed them more than what they need, the milk in their tummy creates gas. That's why they get restless and you think that they are hungry and feed them more milk and further causing this vicious cycle.
#1 had to be properly burped after every feed and she had gas pains from being so full and her little tummy not able to digest the milk properly.
She would sleep and wake up crying in pain and being very restless.
That's us with #1. And you would think that we learnt the lesson with #2, but I have to say that it is so SO hard sometimes to read the signs when they are so little. Is it tiredness? or gas? or hunger? They overlap and I find myself feeding as the last resort.
For breastfed babies
Mistaking wind as hunger:
"My little girl spits up anytime we lay her flat (reflux we believe) even after burping and having her upright for 30 or more minutes. She also gets gas pains and that from being so full. Pediatrician told us to limit intake less more frequently. I've tried pumping to compare how much she's getting per time frame but it's difficult to tell with her suction compared to the pump. I have plenty of milk and if I let her feed longer then 15-20 mins she spits/vomits it all up. You can over feed while breast feeding!" - Wendy
"Windy babies often mistake the wind feeling for hunger. If you have a very good supply that comes out fast, this can cause wind and discomfort. Once again, from personal experience, the reflux child may drink more than is needed and they may drink more often as the sucking is calming and the milk takes away the pain. When they over drink unfortunately this can cause more pain and thus the cycle starts again." - Jenn
"I have a really fast letdown so he would just guzzle it all back and then puke everywhere and then gripe and moan and cry for an hour after a feed. Against my lactation consultant's advice, I tried limiting the worst feeds to 10 minutes on each side. It helped immediately! He's still gaining weight at an amazing pace and thriving so that approach has worked for us." - Trudi
"That's just what happened here and what worked for us. I still feed D when he's hungry I just don't let him suck for comfort because the milk keeps coming and FAST so it upsets his tummy. If I know he's full I take him off the boob and if it's bedtime I will let him have a dummy and a cuddle." - Lauren
Bottle-fed babies are more prone to overfeeding
- the teat lets the milk come out "too fast" and baby just keeps swallowing because its easy (compared to breastfed babies who have to use a lot of energy to suck)
- parents don't like leftovers and convince the baby they "have" to have the whole bottle (#guilty)
Also, did you notice that 'spilly' or unsettled babies seem to enjoy sleeping in carseats and strollers more than flat?
Lying on a 30 degree angle soothes them because there is less stress on the oesophagus when it is not pulled straight. Try tilting the cot mattress by putting a rolled up towel under the head end of the mattress to see if it helps to alleviate some of the discomfort.
Overfeeding is hard especially in the early newborn days when we are finding our routine and learning our baby cues. I hope this article is helpful to some moms.
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