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Your question:

Can I overfeed my breastfed baby?

Expert’s answer:

This is a commonly asked question! Newborn babies need to feed often. A newborn baby will usually actively breastfeed for between 10-40 minutes every 1.5 - 3 hours. This is because:

  • Baby’s tummy is tiny  
  • Breastmilk is very easily digested
  • Everything in breastmilk is very good for your baby and perfectly suited for growth. There are no empty calories. Babies are feeding lots in order to double their birth weight by 6 months!

Breastfeeding works as a “supply and demand system”. The more your baby drinks the more milk there will be.   Unless a baby is very sleepy or ill and not feeding enough, we can TRUST our babies to know what they need.

Babies will let us know when they are getting hungry, and also when they are full. It’s often suggested to “Watch the baby, not the clock”, and to look for those early signals that it is time to latch baby on.

Signals baby is hungry:

  • Licking lips, or making sucking motion
  • Sucking on fist
  • Turning toward mother with mouth open
  • Crying is a LATE sign of hunger – try not to let it get to this stage if you can! Just like us, babies get cross if they are hungry and there is nothing to eat. It is much easier to feed a calm baby.


Signals that baby is full:

After a good feed (10-40 minutes ACTIVE breastfeeding) baby will usually either:

  • Self-detach from the breast or
  • Fall asleep at the breast

Baby has decided not to drink any more milk for now. This is how baby learns what being full feels like and so is unlikely to overfeed.

There is no need to time how long baby feeds at each breast. Allow baby to stay on the first breast for as long as they are feeding. Then take a break, be wind baby if needed, and then offer the second breast.  

Often mothers are concerned if their exclusively breastfed babies are chunky. This is usually perfectly normal and just baby’s own growth pattern. Often these chunky babies become very lean and light when they start to crawl, walk and run!

Sometimes breastfeeding mothers need some extra help. If you are concerned about your milk supply, baby’s weight gain, or are experiencing pain please do seek out skilled help as early as you can. There are many experienced voluntary Breastfeeding Counsellors, Public Health Nurses, and Lactation Consultants who can help you to sort out any breastfeeding problems you may be having.



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