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Your baby knows how much they need

Did you know? Nursing—feeding your baby directly from your breast—helps to protect her ability to drink only as much as she needs.

2 mins to read Dec 31, 2021

Ever encouraged your baby to finish her bottle? You’re not alone. Many parents and caregivers urge their little ones to drink up, believing it’s best for them. However, there is no need to overly encourage or pressure them to drink more than they want.

Baby knows best

There may be occasions when you choose to feed your baby a bottle of expressed breast milk. The important thing to remember is to let your baby decide when they’ve finished. Just as they breastfeed until they are satisfied, they will decide when they are full when drinking from a bottle.

“In one study, children who drank breast milk from a bottle as infants gained more weight than those that nursed directly from their mother. This could be because the bottle-feeding moms tended to pressure their babies to finish a bottle of precious breast milk, even if their baby was no longer showing signs of hunger,” explains Dr. Lisa Fries, Ph.D., Behavioural Scientist at Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland. “Encouraging an infant to finish a bottle or an older child to ‘clean her plate’ can both contribute to teaching children to eat beyond when they are full.”

If you’re bottle-feeding your baby, it can be more difficult to recognize signs that they’re full than when you’re breastfeeding. Pay close attention to whether they lose interest in drinking, moves their head away, or become calm and content.

When enough is enough

Scientific studies have revealed that parents tend to be better at recognizing signs of hunger than signs of fullness. Missing cues that your baby has had enough may mean you continue to feed even when they’re full. This can result in your baby gaining weight too quickly. A steady rate of growth is healthier for babies.

Sources

  • DiSantis KI, Hodges EA, Johnson SL et al. The role of responsive feeding in overweight during infancy and toddlerhood: a systematic review. Int J Obes 2011; 35(4):480-92. 

  • DiSantis KI, Collins BN, Fisher JO et al. Do infants fed directly from the breast have improved appetite regulation and slower growth during early childhood compared with infants fed from a bottle? Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 2011; 8:89. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-8-89. 

  • Gross RS, Mendelsohn AL, Fierman AH et al. Maternal infant feeding behaviors and disparities in early child obesity. Child Obes 2014; 10(2):145-52. 

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