Is It Possible To Overfeed A Baby?

How many times have we all commented on the fact that our children are happy once they are being fed? However, can we overfeed our babies?

How many times have we all commented on the fact that our children are happy once they are being fed? On two occasions this week I said that very thing about my five-week-old baby.

And it’s true – she is happy once she’s “fed and watered”. She’s a breastfed baby so I’ve been feeding her on demand which means there is often no rhyme or reason to her feeding “schedule”. 

Breastfeeding is “supply and demand” so she basically tells my body how much milk she needs, and it makes that very amount for her. It’s all pretty mind-blowing really.

When a baby is bottle-fed, the feeds tend to be more structured. A certain amount of formula milk given at particular intervals and as the baby grows, and so does the volume of milk offered. Given these facts, is it possible to overfeed a baby? 

When it comes to breastfeeding, it is unlikely that overfeeding will be a concern for you. When a baby is breastfed, they can self-regulate when it comes to hunger and their feedings. 

Bottle feeding, on the other hand, may involve a baby occasionally “overfeeding” if they are feeling full but are encouraged to finish their bottle of milk. 

Parents often experience great levels of anxiety around ensuring that their baby is having enough milk in order to thrive and grow in ways that are developmentally appropriate. 

For this reason, formula-fed babies do not have that same ability to stop and start in accordance with their hunger. It is entirely possible that, just like adults, a baby may experience hunger (and thirst) differently from day to day. 

Baby lying on a couch drinking milk
When it comes to breastfeeding, it is unlikely that overfeeding will be a concern for you.

In some cases, a bottle-fed baby may be overfed in a bid to help them sleep for longer periods of time. It is extremely important that nothing is ever added to your babies’ milk to keep them fuller for longer. 

In the past, cereal or rice may have been added for this very reason. It is often associated with trying to encourage your baby to sleep longer, but it is not recommended by medical professionals.

In some cases where overfeeding has occurred, there may have been a diagnosis of postnatal depression for the mother concerned. Overfeeding can happen when a mother struggles with her baby crying and finds feeding the baby the best way of pacifying them. 

In other cases, there was a link between overfeeding and a low-income family. In these cases, supplements (such as cereal or juice) were added to the baby’s formula milk in a bid to make it stretch longer and save money. 

During your baby’s check-ups, their weight will always be assessed. Your public health nurse and GP will keep a close eye on their weight development to ensure that it is in line with the healthy growth guidelines. 

They will use a growth curve to ensure the baby is developing and growing in a healthy manner while considering their birth weight, gender and any medical issues they may have. 

If you are concerned that your baby is bigger than other babies their age, you can raise the issue with your GP or PHN. If solids are being consumed, they will be able to offer some advice regarding healthy eating and portions. 

The reality is that while it is not entirely impossible for a baby to be overfed, it is usually unlikely. 

Babies go through so many different developmental leaps and periods of growth and during these times, they may want to feed more (or less) than usual. When babies become mobile, they use a lot more calories and things tend to balance. 

However, with rising levels of obesity, it is important to be mindful of the amount your baby is eating and raise any issues you may have with a medical professional.

Tracey Quinn

Proud mum of two who got married on Don't Tell The Bride and had an accidental home-birth (loves a good story). She's passionate about breastfeeding, positive thinking & all things cosy.

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