Skip to main content

Top overfeeding signs and how to avoid overfeeding baby

Can you overfeed a baby? It’s a question that a lot of new parents ask themselves, since babies can’t always regulate their food intake during mealtime.

Overfeeding an infant isn’t common, but there are a few things to watch out for when feeding your baby.

Mother cradling her baby while breastfeeding
Tetiana Mandziuk/Getty Images

How much do babies typically eat?

For a newborn, mealtime should take place every two to three hours. It’s not uncommon for newborns to eat eight to 12 times a day because they might not be able to drink more than half an ounce during a feeding. Frequent feedings help your baby grow and will stimulate milk production if you’re breastfeeding.

A good rule of thumb is to assume your baby is getting an additional ounce of milk per feeding for each month of age. A 2-month-old baby should drink 4 to 5 ounces every three to four hours, while a 6-month-old should drink 8 ounces every four to five hours.

As you introduce solid foods, you will need to find a balance between different foods and smaller quantities of milk.

How to know if your baby is getting enough to eat

It can be hard to assess how much milk your baby drinks during mealtime, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Pay attention to satiety cues from your baby:

  • A newborn with a full stomach will be content, happy, and relaxed.
  • It’s common for babies to fall asleep once they’re full.
  • After feeding baby, you’ll notice their hands open and relax.
  • Other common signs include releasing from the bottle or breast and turning away from it.

Consider adopting on-demand feeding. It’s a great way of making sure that your newborn is getting enough food and doesn’t fuss because of hunger. Feeding on-demand can help your baby develop early communication skills. After a few weeks, you’ll find a natural schedule that works for your baby’s needs.

The key to adopting a feeding on-demand schedule is to learn to recognize hunger cues from your baby:

  • Closing fists
  • Moving fists to mouth
  • Sucking on fists
  • Lip movements
  • Looking for breasts
  • Being fussy or restless
  • Crying

Note that babies typically display other hunger cues before crying, and that fussiness can have other causes. Babies will also open and close fists and touch their mouth to explore things and not because they’re hungry.

Common signs your baby is eating too much

Overfeeding doesn’t happen very often, but it can be hard for babies to stop eating when they’re full. You should watch out when feeding baby with a bottle because it’s not easy to control the flow, and your baby can get more milk easily.

Here are some common signs of overfeeding:

  • Excessive and rapid weight gain
  • Frequent diaper changes
  • Frequent bowel movements with a strong smell and liquid consistency
  • Belching and flatulence
  • Irritability and fussiness
  • Trouble sleeping at night

How to avoid overfeeding

Always feed the recommended amount of formula for your baby’s age. If you’re unsure of how much your baby is eating when you breastfeed, your best option is to meet with a lactation consultant.

Don’t offer a bottle or breastfeed every time the baby cries. Look for other potential causes, like your baby feeling hot or uncomfortable, or even a full diaper. Pay attention to other hunger cues, as well.

Infants will often close their fists, become restless, or suck on their hands because they’re excited about something or want to explore their surroundings.

Pay attention to cues from your child. They will turn away from the bottle or breast when they’re full and lose interest. You can also take a few breaks during mealtime to give your baby more time to give you cues that they’re full.

You should wait until your baby is 4 to 6 months of age before introducing solid foods. Introducing solid foods too early or offering large quantities of solid foods can result in overfeeding and weight gain due to the nutrient-rich nature of solid foods. Check with your pediatrician before you introduce solid foods.

Adopting a regular sleep schedule can be challenging, but making sure your baby gets plenty of sleep will prevent hormonal disturbances that can increase appetite and help you adopt a more natural feeding schedule.

Lastly, don’t force your baby to eat if they won’t latch on. Infants have a sucking reflex and will drink if you push a bottle or nipple into their mouth even if they’re not hungry.

Mother feeding her baby a bottle
Ariel Skelley / Getty Images

Final thoughts

Even though overfeeding isn’t a common issue, it’s normal for new parents to worry about whether or not their newborn is eating as much as they should. 

Watch out for common signs of overfeeding, pay attention to hunger and satiety cues from your baby, and bring up feeding with your pediatrician if you have concerns about your child’s weight or eating habits.

Editors' Recommendations

How to help a crying child: Our top tips for sensitive kids
Learn ways to teach highly sensitive children how to manage emotions
A crying toddler holding an ice cream cone

We've all heard the expression about there not being a point in crying over spilled milk, but as parents, we know kids do. Children cry over a lot more than a spilled drink, especially when youngsters are toddlers and don't have the words to express what they're feeling. Many parents, however, deal with a crying child multiple times a day.

If your little one tends to get upset over relatively minor things, you're not alone. Lots of kids get upset when things don't go the way they want, but for some, it seems like the tears flow freely and quite often. Perhaps it's not that a crying child is being overly dramatic. It just might be that your child is highly sensitive.
Is your crying child highly sensitive?

Read more
7 kids’ school lunch ideas you can put together in no time
Tasty lunches kids won't want to trade or toss
A child eating her school lunch

Do you dread packing lunch for the kiddos during the school year? You're not alone. This evening ritual can be daunting, especially when your children keep begging you to let them buy the school lunch. Even though creating lunches during the week can be a chore, parents know bringing food from home is healthier and cheaper than purchasing a meal from school.

The problem is lunches can get boring. There are only so many things you can put in a lunchbox or bag for kids. The grass is always greener, too, because someone usually seems to have a cooler lunch or a better snack than your kids. So, if you need some delish and healthy kids' school lunch ideas, we've got the inspiration you need to take the bore out of this nighttime chore.
School lunch tips

Read more
The ultimate nursery checklist of everything you need (and nothing you don’t)
Nursery essentials babies need when they come home from hospital
White nursery

There are so many exciting moments during a pregnancy, but one which many parents-to-be look forward to is planning the nursery. Putting together baby's nursery is such a thrilling time. It's packed with important decisions like the color of the nursery, and of course, the theme. Then, there's the shopping for all the necessities baby will need when your little one comes home from the hospital.

Getting ready for the birth of your child is exhilarating, but it's also overwhelming. Deciding on the nursery essentials can be daunting, especially if this is your first baby. Shopping for baby is expensive as well. Before heading to a baby store or shopping online, it's prudent to have a nursery checklist. Using a checklist to outfit the nursery will ensure you'll have what you need and won't waste money on things you don't. So, let's get shopping because we've got the nursery checklist must-haves along with the items you don't need.
Nursery checklist

Read more