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Can a newborn eat too much? You might be surprised by the answer

Signs of newborn overeating and ways to give the proper nutrition

Can you overfeed a newborn? In short, yes, you can, but it doesn’t happen often. Every newborn has differences in appetite where one might drink a bottle or breastfeed longer than the other. Regardless, you can recognize the signs when your child has overeaten. Overfeeding a newborn often causes discomfort to the child because they can’t properly digest all breast milk or formula.

When overeating, the child can also ingest air, which may produce gas, increase abdominal discomfort, or cause crying. A child can even spit more than usual and have a soft stool. Although the discomfort of crying is not colic, they can cry more frequently than a child who already has colic. Therefore, you’ll need to watch for the signs of overfeeding your baby.

Mother holding baby in nursery

These are the signals that will clue you into how hungry (or not) your baby is.

  • Holding the breast or bottle and continuously sucking (which indicates hunger)
  • Taking longer breaks between sucking (meaning that he or she is full)
  • Moving away from the breast or bottle (signaling fullness)

The amount of food each newborn needs will vary, but there are signs that generally show that a baby is gaining enough nutrition, such as a happy demeanor and good muscle tone.

Overeating, however, means that the baby consumes more milk (breast milk or formula) than they need for growth. Getting too much milk can overload a child’s small stomach and consequently get in the way of proper digestion.

Mom feeding newborn in bed

Signs of overfeeding baby on a regular basis

Likewise, here are the signs of overfeeding a newborn that you’ll need to be aware of.

  • Above-average weight gain
  • Frequent, nauseating bowel movements
  • Large burping
  • Milk regurgitation
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbance

Symptoms associated with overeating are usually mistaken for colic, reflux, allergies, or intolerances to milk protein, or lactose intolerances. What separates the overeating from these conditions is that your child shows healthy growth, which does not happen when he or she has a digestive issue or a food allergy.

Baby drinking from a bottle

What causes a newborn to eat too much?

There are plenty of reasons a newborn overeats which include:

  • Sleep deprivation: Lack of sleep disrupts the hormonal balance, which regulates appetite, resulting in increased appetite.
  • Development: Babies are at the stage of oral development. In addition to wanting to suck when they are hungry, they also like to suck when they are tired, bored, uncomfortable, frustrated, or simply because they want to.
  • Active sucking reflex: Babies have a limited ability to stop when they’ve had enough milk due to the sucking reflex, especially when feeding quickly.
  • Fast feeding: This increases the likelihood that a child will ingest more milk than the stomach can contain or more than their tiny digestive system can adequately digest.
  • Association of feeding and sleep: A child who falls asleep regularly by sucking a bottle can learn that the way they fall asleep is with a bottle in their mouth. This means that a child may want a bottle not only when they are hungry, but also when they are tired.
  • Ignoring the signs of satiety: Satiety means that the child is full. The caregiver may try to force the child to consume the amount in the bottle after the child has shown signs of being full. Forced feeding of the baby is easy to implement while the baby’s sucking reflex is active (from birth to 3-4 months), and therefore it is easy to force the baby to take more than necessary.

Baby drinking from a bottle

How to deal with overeating in a newborn

For starters, it is important not to limit the baby’s milk intake, but to help them to self-regulate. If you happen to overload the baby, don’t stress too much. In the future, you would need to watch for signs of being full. If he or she moves away before the end of the bottle or before the usual time of breastfeeding ends, then your baby is saying that the feeding was enough. If you are concerned about your child overeating, talk to your pediatrician. The doctor will examine the length, weight, and development of the baby and make some recommendations.

Mother feeding her baby a bottle

Overfeeding a newborn is very rare, but it can happen. It is more common in children who breastfeed, simply because parents can’t exactly determine the quantity that the baby has taken in. However, don’t focus on the amount because the quantity varies with each feeding. After all, you’ll be able to tell if your child is healthy and happy.

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