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Bottle Feeding: Is Baby Getting Too Much?
A recent study linked obesity in adults with excessive bottle feeding in childhood. So, are you giving your baby too much milk?
If you bottle feed your baby it is easy to see how much the baby is getting. Manufacturers give instructions on how to make formula and how much milk an infant should consume. The guidelines describe how much to feed a child at a certain age and weight. So, why are babies at greater risk of becoming overweight when they are bottle-fed?
The biggest reason for obesity is that parents ignore the baby’s signals that it is enough. Nursing mothers are taught to follow their children’s lead. Nursing mothers are taught to give breast milk when the baby wants it and to stop breastfeeding when they see signs that the baby is getting enough. Mothers who choose to bottle feed are rarely given this advice. Instead, mothers feel compelled to follow the instructions written on the side of the dish. But guidelines are not for every child; each child is different, unique. Because of the blind acceptance that formula manufacturers know best, many mothers are tempted to bottle-feed their baby.
Nicolas Stettler, a pediatric nutritionist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, studied data from a large group of bottle-fed babies. He found a correlation between rapid weight gain in the first four months and obesity at seven years. He suggests that this may be due to overeating. “With bottle-fed babies, the mother can win her baby over by urging him to finish the bottle,” she explains. “A mother must respond to her child’s symptoms.” When babies are constantly over-filled, they have passed the point of feeling full, so over time they can learn to ignore the ‘full sign’. Also, for most babies, drinking milk is not just about getting nutrition; it’s about comfort. Therefore, some babies will continue to feed even when they are not hungry.
A mother should be aware of the signs that indicate that the baby is being fed well. But what signs should a bottle-feeding mother look for? First, follow the advice given to breastfeeding mothers. That means you let your baby take ten or 12 feeds, then remove the bottle, then allow ten or 12 more feeds, followed by another break, and so on. This movement is very important for a newborn baby, less than four months old. During this break, remove the nipple from your baby’s mouth as you may accidentally press it against his palate. If, after one of these breaks, your baby does not open his mouth to the bottle, it is probably over. When feeding a child, look at his mouth. If your baby’s mouth relaxes or moves too quickly to stop breastfeeding, he’s done drinking. If your child no longer maintains eye contact, rolls his head from side to side, or tries to push the bottle way; you have finished drinking.
Formula-fed babies are known to put on weight differently compared to breast-fed babies. This difference is most noticeable after two or three months, when formula-fed babies gain weight faster than breast-fed babies on average. Breastfed babies tend to gain weight slowly after the first three months. Also, they gain less weight at one year of age than formula-fed babies. Keep this in mind if you are comparing your child’s weight with a weight chart.
Baby weight can be inaccurate and it is not uncommon for newborns to lose weight in the first few days. If you are concerned about your child’s weight you should seek medical advice immediately. As mentioned above, the most important thing is to follow your baby’s lead as to how much he wants; not someone else’s.
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