Can You Overfeed a Newborn?

If you notice that your newborn is spitting up a lot, you may think you are overfeeding your baby. However, only a qualified professional can determine if this is indeed the case. It is important to understand the signs your baby will give you when he or she is full. This article explains the signs that your baby (breastfed and bottle fed) is full and how you can avoid overfeeding your baby.

Can You Overfeed a Newborn?

image001Overfeeding refers to giving a baby more milk than they need for adequate nutrition. It is practically impossible to overfeed a newborn. They don’t eat based on emotion or external stressors. They eat when they are hungry and when they are full, they stop.

When there is too much milk in your child’s stomach, they may spit up and be fussy due to stomach discomfort. Your baby may not be able to properly digest the extra milk and this can lead to digestive issues such as loose stools and excessive spitting up. Overfeeding can also cause a colicky baby to become more agitated.

The following are a few signs that you may be overfeeding your baby:

  • Your baby gains weight quickly and has a higher weight than is normal for their height and age
  • Your baby may produce extremely foul smelling stools that are runny
  • Your baby may experience gas in the form of excessive burping or flatulence
  • Frequent bouts of spitting up
  • Irritability
  • Poor sleep habits

Sometimes, overfeeding can mimic other conditions such as colic, reflux or lactose intolerance. The main difference is that that the baby will experience healthy growth throughout the process while a baby who has an underlying issue such as colic or reflux may exhibit poor growth.

What Are the Signs that Your Newborn Has Had Enough?

The key in answering "can you overfeed a newborn?" and to avoid this problem is to know the signs when your baby has had enough to eat. 

Breastfed Babies

When you are breastfeeding it can be more difficult because you can’t measure the exact amount of milk you baby is consuming at each feeding. There are, however, other ways to determine if your baby has had enough.

  • You breasts feel soft after your baby is done nursing.
  • If you baby falls asleep after nursing and stays asleep for an extended period of time.
  • Your baby gains weight at a consistent and regular pace.
  • After the first month your baby has several wet diapers per day
  • Overall, your baby’s disposition should be relaxed and easy going after they have nursed.
  • If they are full they may turn their face away from the breast.

Watch for your baby’s clues and listen to your own body. The partnership between you and your baby is a remarkable thing! Trust your instincts and try to avoid placing your baby on a schedule too early. Newborns need to be fed on demand in order to establish a good milk supply.

Watch a video to learn more tips to know if your breastfed baby has enough milk:

Formula Fed Babies

Learning how much formula your baby needs will take a bit of trial and error. Your baby may become fussy or cry when they are hungry. They may also bring their hands to their mouth or attempt to suckle your arm or anything else that is placed close to the mouth.

Offer a small amount of formula to your baby to see if he or she is indeed hungry. You can offer a small amount at first and then prepare more if they are still hungry. If feeding properly, your baby will wet 5-6 diapers a day (disposable diapers), or 6-8 cloth diapers.

The amount of food each baby needs will be based on a number of different factors including age. Most babies will stop eating when they are full. If you baby is gaining weight at an acceptable rate and seems to be healthy, you can be assured that they are receiving adequate nutrition. The following chart illustrates some general guidelines for formula fed babies. It is important to keep in mind that the amounts can vary and that you will need to decide what works best for your baby’s individual needs.

Average feeding amounts by baby's weight

Weight in pounds         

Ounces per feeding

6 to 8 pounds (2.5 to 3.5 kg)

2 to 3 ounces (60 to 90 mL)

8 to 10 pounds (3.5 to 4.5 kg)

3 to 4 ounces (90 to 120 mL)

10 to 12 pounds (4.5 to 5 kg)

4 to 6 ounces (120 to 180 mL)

12 to 16 pounds (5 to 7 kg)

6 to 8 ounces (180 to 240 mL)

Watch a video to learn more tips to know if your formula baby has enough milk as well as other formula feeding basics:

How to Avoid Overfeeding Your Newborn

You won’t need to worry too much about overfeeding your baby because babies, even newborns, are pretty good at regulating the amount of food they need. However, if you notice that your baby seems to be gaining weight rapidly or there is a significant jump in where your baby lies on the growth chart for their height and age, overfeeding may be the culprit. Watch out for the signs of overfeeding and your baby being full as mentioned above to avoid overfeeding.

The most important thing to consider is whether your baby is healthy. If your baby’s doctor determines that he or she is healthy, then you have nothing to worry about. You should address any concerns as soon as they come up, with your child’s doctor. It is also worth noting that your baby may spit up or be fussy even if they are not being overfed.

Video for more: Feeding Schedule for Newborns