Can You Overfeed a Breastfed Baby?

Can you overfeed a breastfed baby? Here's what the experts have to say.

Can You Overfeed a Breastfed Baby?

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There's nothing like bringing home a newborn baby. While it's a lot of snuggles, it's also a lot of eating, sleeping and pooping. And as sweet and magical as this time is, it can be equally daunting, especially if you're breastfeeding. It can be hard to know if your baby is getting enough breast milk or if they're getting too much.

If you aren't pumping milk for bottle feeding, you can't see exactly how much your baby is drinking. So, you might be wondering can you overfeed a breastfed baby? The answer might surprise you. Here's what you need to know, according to medical professionals and lactation consultants.

Mother breastfeeding baby at home iStock

Can you overfeed a breastfed baby?

No, technically, you cannot overfeed a breastfed baby. According to Emily Silver, NP-C, IBCLC, co-founder of newborn and parenting education platform NAPS—there's no real reason to be concerned that your baby is getting too much breastmilk. "Babies get really good at breastfeeding in time and regulating their own feeds, taking in what they need. It's also normal for babies to sometimes eat one side, but not the other," she says.

It's almost impossible for breastfed babies to eat too much explains Silver, "A newborn's stomach is small and can't hold a ton of volume, so if your breastfed baby took in too much milk, it would just spill back out. Spit up is unavoidable in newborns because their stomach and esophagus are still developing."

When it comes to breastfeeding, Silver's approach is to let the baby latch and determine how much they want to eat.

Just keep in mind that according to Amy Peterson, IBCLC, Evenflo Feeding, a baby who takes breast milk from the bottle, which is still considered breastfed by most, can technically be overfed. "The reason for this is two-fold. First, some caregivers may coax the baby to finish the contents of the bottle, rather than respecting the baby's feeding cues and allowing the baby to decide when they are finished.


Second, there may be other foods added to the bottle such as cereal, formula, or juice—that could impact weight gain."

So, if you are bottle-feeding breastmilk, it's crucial to look at your baby's cues to determine when they're full.

Young careful mother in pajamas sitting under blanket on bed breastfeeding her cute baby while holding him on hands shironosov/ Getty Images

How do I know if my baby is overfed from breastfeeding?

Kathleen McCue DNP, FNP-BC, IBCLC-RLC and owner of Metropolitan Breastfeeding says that the stomach will empty itself. So, a baby will spit up or start hiccupping (which is reflux) and look uncomfortable if they are overfed.

"There are different signs and symptoms and not all babies exhibit all these signs; gassy, bloated, gaining weight at a very rapid pace and when babies pull off the breast, it's helpful to see if it's because the letdown is too rapid or if they're finished or if they simply need to burp."

Peterson says to think of spitting up as the baby's natural overflow valve. "If or when a baby may consume more than the tummy can handle, the baby will spit up undigested milk and mom will know."


This is generally a laundry issue, not a medical issue. However, if your baby is constantly spitting up or displaying signs of discomfort, you may want to consult your pediatrician or a lactation consultant.

Shot of a young woman breastfeeding her adorable baby girl on the sofa at home PeopleImages/ Getty Images

Will breastfed babies stop eating when full?

While most babies will stop eating when full, there are still a few things to look out for. Silver tells me it can take time for babies to learn how to self-regulate. Some instances are the exception to the rule. "Sometimes babies suck because they're uncomfortable, and end up taking in more milk then they need," says McCue.

So, if you have a generous milk supply or are an overproducer, your baby may end up overeating if they are sucking the nipple to self-soothe. This can happen if they are distressed or sick.

How long should baby breastfeed per session?

There isn't a specific length of time that you should feed your baby according to McCue. "If it's a special occasion, as an adult you might sit at the table for hours. If you're not feeling well, you might just snack or drink." It's the same for babies and depends on several factors like how much milk mom has, if baby needs one breast or two, the age of the baby, their weight, and the time of day.

Anywhere between five minutes and an hour falls can be considered normal. McCue also suggests that moms keep in mind that not every feeding will be exactly like the one before it. Babies may end up breastfeeding more if they are having a growth spurt or less if they ate a little while ago or have started eating solid foods.

Woman breastfeeding baby Orbon Alija/ Getty Images


What are some signs that a breasted baby is full?


Peterson says that most breastfed babies stop eating when they feel full. "Keep in mind that many babies will take a short rest mid-feed and request to eat again. This is normal."

So, even if you think baby is done breastfeeding, it's best to wait a few minutes, then put baby on the boob again to make sure they aren't still hungry.

Should you only allow your baby to eat at certain times?

McCue says hunger cues are there for a reason and the feeling of hunger is not pleasant. "Think about how your baby feels next time you're hungry and ask yourself why you'd want them to feel that way. Babies go through growth spurts and will go days and sometimes weeks being insatiable."

What are some signs your baby is done feeding?

According to Silver, if they're not swallowing, they're done eating. "Are they satisfied and able to be soothed to sleep after a feeding? Are they making wet diapers and having yellow seedy stools?

Are they gaining weight every time you see your pediatrician? These things help build confidence that the system is working."



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