As a new parent, it's easy to worry if you're doing your job right. If your baby doesn't seem to eat enough, you worry that you're underfeeding him. But if he eats too much, you may worry that you're overfeeding. It's good to be a vigilant and caring parent, but when it comes to overfeeding, you can relax. It's hard to cause serious damage with that particular mistake.
Newborns have tiny stomachs and usually drink just a few ounces of breast milk or formula at a feeding. According to Dr. Ari Brown and parenting writer Denise Fields in "Baby 411," your newborn will eat until he's full, then stop. He's more likely to eat too little than to eat too much. If he does eat a lot, it's close to impossible for him to overeat enough to do damage.
If a baby eats too much, or too fast, the most common effect is that it will come right back up. She will burp up the formula or breast milk in a white, wet, smelly mess -- often all over you. A towel or cloth diaper on your shoulder is the best solution for this symptom of overeating. You may also need to change her clothes -- and yours.
Overeating and indigestion can cause tummy aches in babies just as they do in adults. Symptoms of a tummy ache can include mild bloating in the abdomen, uncharacteristic crying, "grumbling" sounds in the belly and passing gas. You can ease the pain and help digestion by peddling your baby's feet as if he's riding a bicycle and rubbing his tummy in a counterclockwise motion. Medication is not recommended for newborns with tummy aches.
In the long term, a baby you overfeed may become overweight. Your regular well-baby appointments will include comparing her height and weight percentiles to make sure she's at a healthy body size. Weight gain is slow and hard to notice on a day-to-day basis. Ask your pediatrician if your baby is an appropriate weight for her age and length.
- "Baby 411;" Denise Fields, Dr. Ari Brown; 2010
- Healthychildren.org: Abdominal Pains in Infants