In a bottle fed baby, the feed is more parent led - once the bottle is upturned, milk is released and each suck swallow pattern causes the teat to refill and more milk to be released. Baby can have finished the bottle, long before their system has had chance to recognise they are full.
Secondly, as observed in the cafe, before an infant can physically push the bottle away, the only thing they can do is turn their head and try and prevent it entering their mouth. Eventually mum will often manage to get the teat in, milk flows and baby is forced to swallow, usually at least a couple of times before they manage to force the teat out with their tongue and again turn their head.
In both the above scenarios, the ability to only eat to satiation is being overridden from a very young age - instead infants are used to finishing the lot and feeling overfull. The over feeding stretches their stomach to accommodate the larger amount of milk, so next time after consuming the same amount - they may no longer feel sated. At the "worst case" end of the spectrum you end up with a baby consuming vast amounts of milk, yet still not settling or appearing full - maybe even suffering colic from his distended stomach. An older report found found bottle fed babies consumed approximate 30,000 more calories per year than a breastfed infant - which the authors felt was due to a combination of incorrect preparation and tactics to encourage infant to drink more or finish each bottle.
Many babies prefer small, more frequent feedings as they have small stomachs and again this mimics the breastfed baby; however, bottles shouldn't be used as the primary way to comfort baby - if he appears hungry shortly after a feed and weight gain is good, consider offering a clean finger or pacifier (Sears) If your baby is taking above the guidelines on the tin per 24 hours, contact your health care provider for advice.
Can a bottlefeeding mum do anything to reduce the risks?
- An average bottle feed should take approximately ten to twenty minutes. Regularly pausing to slow the feed down and mimic a breastfed pattern, can help baby recognise sated cues earlier. It also prevents guzzling!
- Hold baby regularly when not feeding, to prevent baby asking for food in order to be held.
- Non nutritive sucking (ie comfort sucking) is important to babies. If not breasfeeding, consider offering a finger/thumb or pacifier between feeds, so baby doesn't have to feed to meet this need.
- Watch baby closely for his cues. If he turns, twists or pushes the teat out with his tongue - he's finished. He may need winding and will perhaps then take more, or he may repeat his behaviour to indicate he is satiated.
- Some sources suggest that mums may confuse signs of overfeeding with an intolerance to a particular breastmilk substitute, and may try swapping brands to reduce symptoms. Watching your baby closely and observing for any of the following behaviours can help to reduce the risks of overfeeding.
Signs that your baby may be consuming too much at each feeding are:
- a lot of spitting up or profuse vomiting immediately after the feeding
- colicky abdominal pain (baby draws his legs up onto a tense abdomen) immediately after feeding
- excessive weight gain