5 reasons why not to
overfeed your baby
In my opinion, the ultimate paediatric accessory is a brightly coloured miniature calculator to help you calculate not only drug dosages but infant feeding volumes. Aiming for that magic volume of 150ml/kg/day sometimes leads to us medicalising feeding to the nearest millilitre and may seem a little over the top. However it is not uncommon to discover 6 month old babies being fed double this volume, looking like miniature sumo wrestlers who would give your average two year old a run for their money.
So here are my top 5 reasons not to overfeed your baby based on my experiences and some real evidence. Feel free to use them with tact when counselling parents if it seems appropriate.
1. It gets messy! There’s only a certain amount of milk that a tiny baby can take before they start spewing everywhere (which means a lot of washing…) Unless you’re seen by an ‘on the ball’ GP or paediatrician, your baby could also end up on the conveyer belt of reflux treatment (Gaviscon, Carobel, Ranitidine…) when simply cutting down the feeds to a sensible volume would have sufficed.
2. It’s not good for them. Obese infants become obese adults and evidence has shown that early overfeeding and excess weight gain is linked with the development of the so called ‘metabolic syndrome’ and increased cardiovascular risk later in life. Formula milks contain higher protein levels than breast milk stimulating excess growth and adiposity and therefore breast feeding is known to be protective against all of the above.
3. It makes them constipated. Casein is a sticky protein found in Cows Milk. Baby cows have an enzyme called ‘Rennet’ in their stomach specially designed to digest Casein. Baby humans do not. Overfeeding with milk especially in proportion to solids as they get older can lead to significant problems with constipation (a common paediatric heart
sink.) Hungry baby formulas often contain higher levels of Casein and therefore can make things even worse.
4. If they are unfortunate enough to become unwell, getting an IV line into them can be an absolute nightmare. I often find myself grinning manically at parents as I explain that it’s often difficult to get access in this age group especially with that ‘lovely layer of chubbiness’. Also if they are really really sick, there’s a higher chance we might have to drill into their bone to give them the medicines that will make them better.
5. It delays their motor development. Can you imagine trying to haul yourself to your feet for the first time when your physique is similar to that of Budai (Fat Buddha). Excess fat makes postural control difficult and it’s a vicious cycle as
children who don't develop early motor competencies are often less active later in childhood increasing their risk of obesity further.
In addition to the above, it’s expensive…You feed them twice as much, it costs twice as much (and will cost them in many other ways in the long term). Think of all the cute baby outfits that you could buy with the extra money…..
Slining M, Adair LS, Goldman BD, Borja JB, Bentley M. Infant overweight is associated with delayed motor development. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2010;157(1):20-25.e1. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2009.12.054.