Can You Overfeed a Breastfed Baby?

Guys. My little one is chunky.  She is 6 months old now and wears 12-18 month clothes! She has little rolls on her wrists, on her thighs, even on her ankles! I just love them… and those cheeks… I could kiss them forever! Just look at my little nugget!

Every where we go, people stop and comment on our little chunky monkey, followed with praise for how adorable she is. Emmy always gives them her wide gummy smile and I can’t help but smile too.  She brings so much joy to me and those around her. The comments about her weight have never bothered me. But a comment was made recently by someone who had a little more credibility when it came to baby weight: her pediatrician. I’ll never forget the feeling I got when he said “this baby is overfed and overweight”. He gave me some tips on how Emmy could get more exercise. He suggested that if she showed hunger cues before the 4 hour mark since the last feeding to just give her a bottle with water instead of letting her latch on. He told me introducing solid foods was out of the question because Emmy obviously did not need anymore calories.  He was very stern in the fact that I needed to stop overfeeding her and it had to stop. Well, now I was bothered. I was in a state of shock during the conversation, but I also had an overwhelming feeling to just cry. I left the doctor’s office that day feeling the worst kind of mom guilt I could have ever imagined. I thought I was doing the right thing by breastfeeding my baby when I saw hunger cues? Was I doing more harm than good? I went straight home and started doing all sorts of Googling. Was my baby obese? Am I overfeeding my baby? My searches gave me answers. And those answers led me to making one of the best decisions I have made as Emmy’s mom:

We were going to find a new pediatrician.

Because I was not overfeeding my baby.

I recently read this article by The Milk Meg and if I could have jumped through my computer screen and hugged her after reading, I would have. THAT is how much better it made she made me feel. You can read the full article here, but here’s the cliff’s notes:

  • There are so many reasons that your baby will want to latch on and nurse. It’s not just hunger! Comfort is a big reason. If you baby is teething, they may latch on for pain relief. They nurse in order to fight sickness or for relief from illness. There are so many reasons why a baby nurses! So a cue before the 4 hour mark should not be ignored, there are other reasons besides hunger that they need to latch on.
  • With that being said, nursing takes work. The Milk Meg informs us it takes over 40 muscles to nurse. Your baby isn’t going to do all that work for no reason. If they do not want the milk, they won’t take it. The time spent nursing is for good reason.
  • Did you know there is actually a separate growth chart specifically for breastfed babies? The charts used in most doctors offices use data for both breast and bottle fed babies, which can make it pretty skewed. But this chart by the World Health Organization is JUST for boobie babies! Take a look below. Emmy is 6 months and 19 pounds (8.6 kg). Where does that put her on the weight chart? In the 86%! Yes, that’s still above average, but I was being told before that she was “off the charts”. Here is the link to the WHO chart shown below.
  • And lastly, my baby, your baby, all babies, are smart. They know when they have had enough to eat. When they hit their limit, they unlatch. However, if there isn’t milk actively flowing, they may stay latched and sucking for comfort sake.  During this time, your baby may not be actively swallowing meaning they may not even be eating.

Now before you start thinking “how could she ignore medical advice?” or “how is she comfortable taking advice from a website and not a medical professional?”. This isn’t about if the doctor was right or wrong. This was about my views as a mother and being a voice for my child. I did not feel comfortable following this advice. Just like a doctor may tell you that using a pacifier is 100% out of the question and not an option, however you disagree. I feel that I was not causing harm to my baby. If my baby is nuzzling at my buttoned up shirt, practically begging to eat, I am not going to deny her from feeding. If she is simply trying to nurse for comfort, I will provide that. What if she was going through a growth spurt and needed additional calories and I gave her water instead? What if she was sick and needed the nutrients only a mother’s breast milk can provide and I didn’t provide her with what she needed in fear that it would be too many calories? My mom guilt was gone and my mama protective instincts were in full force.

Emmy’s new doctor is just wonderful. We are so happy we made the move. Upon meeting Jay and me, he asked about our size as babies, asked about out parents and their build. He pointed out that being a big baby seemed to be in her genes. He agreed that Emmy was a little plump, but she was growing at a stable rate and was healthy as could be. He encouraged us to introduce solids and continue with the breastfeeding. He encouraged us to keep up all the tummy time we had been doing and believed she would be on the move in no time. He encouraged. I left there that day feeling supported and guilt-free. I was so happy we had found a doctor that made us feel like we were doing it right.

So no… you cannot overfeed your breastfed baby. The best thing you can ever do for your little one is let them nurse. Their cues mean that are in need of something, whether it be food or comfort or pain relief, the best thing you can do as their mother is provide.


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4 thoughts on “Can You Overfeed a Breastfed Baby?

  1. Lindsey Renee says:

    Oh my goodness, I’m quite shocked by this pediatrician! As a nurse I would apologize for their behavior and tell you that your decision was a wise one. All the pediatricians I know would agree w the last physician that she is healthy and this is normal chart growth for your adorable baby girl! Way to take a stand for your baby girl and be her advocate!

    • Caroline @ Swaddles n' Bottles says:

      Thanks Lindsey! I have to admit it was kind of scary to switch during such an important time but I am so happy we did! Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. Emily says:

    I totally agree with your decision. There is a lot credible information out there. Your baby is very adorable by the way and she looks very healthy and happy. You’re doing a great job making sure that all your baby’s needs are being met. Great post!

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