Overfeeding Your Baby

The young mother is frantic. Her baby never seems quite satisfied. Louise has been committed to breastfeeding, but things just haven’t gone well. Little Becky has lots of those mustard-seed poops and wet diapers, but Louise thinks she doesn't seem very happy. Becky spends a lot of time wiggling and squirming. After eating, her legs and arms shake and bicycle around, she makes one odd face after another, and then she grunts and squeaks. Louise figures all this must mean that Becky is unsettled, unhappy, or discontent. Where are those quiet, cuddly times Louise has always imagined would be a part of being a new mom?

So now Louise is bottle feeding. Every time Becky squirms, Louise gives her the bottle. When the baby sucks the bottle her body seems to get still for the time being. Louise thinks that must mean Becky is at peace. But, all this feeding! Now Becky seems to be spitting up more often and having more painful, gas bubbles. Confused and upset, Louise finally goes off to meet with Angela, the WIC nurse at the health department.

Fortunately, Angela has just completed a special course on preventing overfeeding by reading a baby’s body language. It is very common, Angela learns, for moms to be confused by a baby’s body language and “just give the bottle.” A breastfeeding baby can suckle when she is not hungry and be comforted without getting extra calories. However, a bottle-fed baby who sucks a bottle too often will take in unneeded calories and become another statistic--an overfed infant destined to become an overweight toddler, child, and adult.

But Angela helps Louise “read her baby’s body language.” Angela describes Becky's wiggles and squirms as normal movements for some children who exhibit greater motor activity than others. Those grunts, too, are normal vocalizations as a baby plays with the feel and sound of noise making. Those tiny tremors when she is excited or over-stimulated are normal as well. [See video clips of reading a baby's SOS (Sign of Over-stimulation)] Angela also shows Louise that holding Becky’s hands against her chest, or swaddling her, makes all the difference. Now Becky is thriving.

Louise knows that she will be a successful breastfeeding mother with her next child. And for now, she will feed Becky when she needs to eat, and pay attention to her baby’s amazing ability to say, “Hey, Mom, I’m not hungry! Let’s just play right now!”

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