Can you overfeed a breastfed baby? This is an important question because naturally, you want to provide the best nourishment for your baby. However is it possible for him or her to have “too much of good thing” as the old adage goes?
So we’ll look what usually works and what doesn’t with feeding. Most importantly, you’ll find out why you should not worry about overfeeding.
Basic Information on Feeding Patterns
Every baby is different and so are their feeding patterns. Each child has his or her own particular needs when it comes to the quantity of milk desired.
Nonetheless, there are some general guidelines to follow when in doubt:
- Your baby needs to eat at least 8 times a day, especially during the first month
- Babies won’t become too “clingy,” “whiny,” or “needy” if you feed them right when they’re hungry or need comforting.
- Don’t be surprised if your baby starts to eat more often when going through a growth spurt. It’s normal.
As mentioned, you don’t have to worry about any issues with personality and resilience. In the first few weeks, your baby is not yet close to developing these qualities. So if you are wondering can you overfeed a breastfed baby to the point of spoiling, it’s impossible.
Moreover, the nutrients will only benefit his or her physical and mental development not to mention the boost to the immune system gained through breast milk.
Did you know that your newborn’s stomach is approximately the same size as a walnut? No wonder the little guy or gal needs to nurse in such short but frequent spurts! That tiny tummy can only hold so much milk.
This goes back to the original question of can you overfeed a breastfed baby to the point of harm? The answer is still “no” because your baby will let you know when he or she is full. Likewise, babies always inform you when they are hungry.
This is called “responsive” or “on-demand” feeding. It tends to vary with age since babies’ appetites tend to increase during a growth spurt. What is really amazing about this pattern is that occurs naturally on its own. Your milk supply is automatically stimulated by your baby’s need for nourishment.
At the same time, your child also gauges how much food is necessary and usually unlatches when satisfied. Again, this natural process makes it impossible to overfeed your baby.
The (Non) Issue of Weight
Childhood obesity haunts us in just about all aspects of the media. While there might be reason to pay attention when you hear or read about the statistics, this issue does not relate to newborns. If anything at all, breastfeeding helps to protect against obesity later on in childhood.
As previously noted, babies regulate how much and when they eat. They are quite in tune with their appetites. This makes overfeeding a breastfed baby virtually impossible. So, if your little one seems to be gaining weight rather quickly, then rejoice. He or she is healthy and probably just growing at a faster rate.
And, most importantly, never try to replace the nutritious breast milk with water or any other liquid to avoid “too many” calories. Your milk is the perfect food with just the right amount of nutrients because of the naturally occurring balance of vitamins, protein, and fat. So-called dieting is not an option because your baby’s development depends on this.
The Possibility of the Bottle
The only factor that might relate to overfeeding a breastfed baby is if you incorporate the practice of bottle-feeding with breast milk. To clarify, many moms work outside of the home and therefore, pump milk to store for later use by a daycare provider or a babysitter.
Now what if the person feeding your baby starts propping it up? Then it’s time to have a conversation about why this practice is not healthy because:
- It can lead to tooth decay.
- Although your milk is in the bottle, this practice can cause gas.
- It is a choking hazard.
If your baby experiences minor tummy trouble, then overfeeding is not the culprit. At this point, you might need to look into your own diet. Normally, breastfeeding decreases the chances of your baby getting gas since there’s no worry about air pockets in an almost-empty bottle.
However, some foods and ingredients might cause your baby some discomfort. And while you don’t necessarily have to go on a special diet while breastfeeding, you might take care to decrease amounts of caffeine, spicy foods (if they affect you in that manner), and/or foods that would normally make you flatulent. A small fraction of what you take in is passed on through your milk.
So remember that you cannot overfeed a breastfed baby, especially if you are not incorporating the bottle or supplementing.
Babies grow at different rates and thus, require different feeding patterns. Thus, keep in mind the following hints:
- Try to stick with only breastfeeding during the first month, if possible for optimum nutrition
- If you have to use a bottle, do not prop it up
- Keep watch over your own diet since some of what you take in passes on to your baby
- Let your baby “lead the way” with regard to feeding patterns and frequency
Also, I can never stress enough to find a good lactation specialist in your area in case you need some extra advice. Do you have any suggestions, tips, or questions about feeding your baby? Please feel free to share with us.