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Bottle Feeding: Is Baby Getting Too Much?
Recent studies have linked adult obesity with excessive bottle milk feeding in childhood. So, are you giving your baby too much milk?
When youarefeedingyourbabyabottle,itiseasytoseehowmuchthebabyisgetting. Manufacturers provide instructions on how to make formula milk and how much milk a baby should consume. The guidelines indicate how much you should feed a baby for a certain age and weight. So, why are babies at greater risk of being overweight when they are bottle fed?
The biggest reason for excessive weight gain is because parents ignore a baby’s signals that she has had enough. Breastfeeding mothers are taught to follow the baby’s lead. Breastfeeding mothers are taught to offer breast milk when the baby wants it and to stop giving when she sees signs that the baby has had enough. Mothers who choose to bottle feed are rarely, if ever, given this advice. Rather, mothers feel obligated to follow instructions printed on the side of a container. But guidelines are not suitable for every child; every child is unique, different. Due to blind acceptance that formula milk manufacturers know best, many mothers are inclined to bottle feed their babies.
Nicolas Stettler, a pediatric nutrition specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, studied data on a large group of bottle-fed babies. He found a correlation between rapid weight gain in the first four months and being overweight at the age of seven. This, he suggests, may be due to overfeeding. “With babies who can bottle feed, a mother can override her baby by encouraging him to finish the bottle,” he explains. “The mother must respond to her baby’s cues.” If babies are constantly overfull, past the point of feeling full, then in time they can learn to ignore the ‘full signal’. For most babies too, drinking milk is not just about getting nutrition; it’s about comfort. Therefore, some babies will feed often even when they are not hungry.
A mother should be on the lookout for signals that baby is adequately fed. But what signals should a bottle feeding mother look for? First, follow the advice given to breastfeeding mothers. That means letting your baby take ten or 12 sucks, then removing the bottle, then allowing another ten or 12 sucks, then another pause, and so on. This pacing is especially important for a newborn, less so after about four months. During these breaks, remove the nipple from your baby’s mouth as you may accidentally press it against her palate. If your baby does not open her mouth for the bottle after one of these breaks, she is probably ready. When your baby drinks, watch her mouth. When your baby’s mouth relaxes or goes limp so that she is no longer actively sucking, she is done drinking. If your baby no longer maintains eye contact, rolls her head from side to side, or tries to push the bottle away; she has finished drinking.
Formula-fed babies are known to latch on to a different pattern compared to breast-fed babies. This difference is most marked after two or three months, when formula-fed babies gain weight slightly faster than breast-fed babies on average. Breastfed babies typically gain weight more slowly after the first three months. Also, they tend to be slightly slimmer at one year of age than formula fed babies. Keep this in mind when comparing your baby’s weight gains with a weight chart.
The baby’s weight gains can be irregular and it is not unusual for newborn babies to lose weight in the first few days. If you are worried about your baby’s weight, you should get medical advice immediately. As discussed above, the most important thing is to follow your baby’s lead on how much is needed; not from someone else.
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