So what is overfeeding? Over feeding refers to the situation where a baby is receiving more nutrients than his body requires or more nutrients than his digestive tract is able to absorb. A baby may overfeed if he is forced to drink more milk or due to his inability to decide how much milk or food he should drink or eat.
Why do babies overfeed?
There are a number of reasons why babies might overfeed. Some of the most common reasons for babies overfeeding are:
Baby Sucks Too Quickly
There are necessarily 2 things that influence a baby's ability to consume milk:
- one is the baby's ability to suck milk and
- the second is the speed at which milk leaves the nipple. A Baby's sucking potential influences how quickly milk flows through the bottle.
The quicker a newborn feeds, the more chances there are that he may overfeed. This is because it takes time for the brain to process the satisfaction that happens after consuming food.
Misinterpreting Hunger Cues
A baby crying, awakening from his sleep crying or just making sucking faces are often considered as signs of hunger. But that's a false assumption because babies cry for many reasons. During their oral development stage, babies tend to get comfort from sucking. Babies can also suck if they are bored, frustrated, tired, hungry or just for the sake of it. As a result, offering your baby feeds multiple times a day because of misinterpreting the hunger cues results in him overfeeding.
Overestimating baby's Milk Need
Health professionals often set a standard quantity of milk for babies that parents like to follow. Parents automatically tend to think that it is true for their baby also. However, a baby's milk needs vary from baby to baby. Thus they ignore the satiety cues of their baby and try to make him consume the recommended amount, resulting in overfeeding.
Furthermore, the parents of premature babies are told to regulate their baby's feeds and control their baby when their babies are weak and small. These milk regulations continue as their baby grows more and they continue to regulate his feed quantity and amount.
This being said, it's incorrect as the parents should allow their growing babies and their hunger cues to determine their feed rather than a scale based on different babies' feed averages. In comparison to this, breastfeed babies tend to be at an advantage as they don't need others to decide how much and how frequently they need to feed.
Feeding And Sleep Association
A feeding-sleep association is when a baby has been feeding whilst sleeping for some duration, which has led him to associate feeding behavior with sleep. Now, whenever he wants to sleep, he may appear tired and hungry to get fed and sleep.
He would also want to feed to fall asleep again. This sleep and feeding association may confuse the parents between tiredness and hunger cues.
Healthy Baby Expectation
A chubby baby is usually considered as a healthy baby in most cultures. This leads to parents trying to feed their baby more than the baby needs or requires, in order to make him grow at a faster rate or to make him chubbier.
This means that there is a bigger tendency for thin babies to be overfed by their parents in hope that they may become chubby or gain weight or become 'healthy'. On the contrary, chubby babies are most likely to get their needs overestimated and parents tend to feed them more, based on their weight and age.
Response of baby's body of overfeeding
A baby's stomach will contract and stretch as the food passes down the digestive tract. These stretches can only occur until a limit. After that certain limit, the baby's stomach will reflux the stomach's content through a large vomit or a small spit after or during the feeding session.
If overnutrition takes place, a baby's digestive system may not be able to develop as many enzymes to digest the extra nutrients within a certain period of time. All the nutrients which are not digested can't be absorbed in the bloodstream hence energy from these undigested extra nutrients is not conserved as body fat. Rather, it goes through the baby's digestive tract and is later removed in faeces.
If you are worrying that your baby might be overfeeding, then he of she may show these symptoms:
1) intestinal cramps (baby might bend down crying or grunting in a position of him pooping)
2) watery poops if the baby is on breastfeed, and filthy smelling poops if the baby is on formula feed.
3) burping loudly due to intake of large amount of air while fast feeding
4) millk vomits due to expanding of baby's stomach
5) disturbance in sleep
How to avoid baby from overfeeding
The objective should be to make sure that your baby can self regulate his milk needs. Here are some ways to make this possible:
1) Don't pressurize your baby to drink up more or finish his bottle if he retreats. Try to understand that he is full and doesn't require more milk if he acts like it.
2) Verify if your expectations on how much your baby should consume milk are realistic and valid according to a health professionals chart based on height, weight and age.
3) Try giving him a pacifier or teething toys when he desires to suck something rather than milk every time. If he's still hungry, he will let you know by showing hunger cues and if not, then he will engage with the pacifier.
If you feel as though your baby is overfeeding, you can try these tips to counter his overfeeding habit. If the overfeeding symptoms persist, then you should consult your baby's pediatrician.