What to do when your infant is still hungry

Reading time: 7 min

Even though our little ones’ “tummy problems” remain frequent topics of discussion, I have noticed that more and more mommies are asking me about “hungry” babies. This may sometimes go along with the other problems, such as spitting up formula, colicky symptoms, cramps and even waking up several times at night – as if you’re not losing enough sleep already.

The main concerns of these mommies seem to be: if their baby is feeling satisfied (full and not hungry) and whether or not they should feed their baby more (and if this will cause their baby to spit up even more/have reflux). The most concerning question that arises is whether the formula should be changed or whether solid foods should be introduced to the diet earlier? Here is a good example of what a mommy asked me recently:

“Hi, our baby girl is one month old. She is on formula but vomits it out a lot of the time. She is also very hungry and can’t seem to get enough to drink. Is there another formula that will help her to stop vomiting and will feed her properly?”

A general definition of a hungry or “greedy” baby

One of my favourite definitions for a hungry baby comes from a paediatric journal I read a while back: “Greedy’ infants are defined subjectively; they usually either ingest too much daily milk or cry due to excessive hunger when the ingested volumes are limited.” To answer some of the above-mentioned questions I think that we first need to look at the risks associated with overfeeding or starting solid foods too early. In the same article, it clearly states that the infants who were fed excessive meal volumes and/or were introduced to infant cereals or solid foods too soon (intended to satisfy their appetite) experienced excessive weight gain as a result.

In another article, they found that excessive weight gain due to overfeeding during the first few months or years in a child’s life results in an increased risk of obesity later in childhood or adulthood. It was reported that infants were over nine times more likely to be obese and 31 times to be extremely obese during childhood if they experience rapid weight gain between birth and one year. The last thing any parent wants to do is jeopardise our children’s long-term health.

“Starting with solid foods too soon, or before four or five could lead to unnecessary complications like constipation, cramps and more vomiting, or reflux due to overfeeding.”

Another risk of starting with solid foods too soon, or before four or five months is that a baby’s digestive system is not mature enough to digest these new substances properly and this could lead to unnecessary complications like constipation, cramps and more vomiting, or reflux due to overfeeding. This may cause your baby to be more irritable and can increase crying time and number of times waking up at night. Furthermore, you should always be aware of the sugar intake of your infant or child. By this, experts mean added sucrose or things like corn syrup. These are very refined sugars and can contribute to weight gain and sleeplessness.


What can you do if you think you have a hungry baby?

If your baby is younger than four months and you are breastfeeding, continue to breastfeed as per routine or as your baby needs. It might just be that your baby is going through a growth spurt. As a nursing mommy, you might feel the urge to increase your own daily intake. This is normal and it is your body’s way to ensure that you have enough resources to produce enough milk. If your baby has already been introduced to solid foods (after four or five months), or if you feel that you cannot keep up with breastfeeding, you might consider trying a formula top-up that might help your baby to feel more satisfied.

Infant formulas that might assist your baby to feel fuller

I visited a pharmacy in my area and had a look at the baby section formula shelf again and also made an effort to speak to the clinic sister of the pharmacy for some advice on this matter. To my surprise, I only found two formulas that were known to keep a baby fuller: NAN Lactogen and Novalac SD. I think we all know Lactogen quite well, but if the baby were to have other problems over and above the hunger, it would not be able to address them, the sister explained.

However, she did seem impressed with the Novalac SD. It is a formula that is suitable from birth and has a normal protein and energy content. The clinic sister in the pharmacy interpreted the SD (standing for satiety disorder) as meaning “sweet dreams”, for both the baby and parents. She then elaborated on the composition of these fuller formulas, highlighting that they contain more casein protein than whey, they have an added thickener and reduced lactose concentration. This enables the formula to keep the infant feeling satisfied for longer without increasing the actual volume or energy intake of the infant, preventing your baby from gaining excessive weight, while keeping them feeling fuller.

mother formula feeding her baby
Image: Odua Images/Shutterstock

When we analysed the formula further, we concluded that the thickener can also help to reduce reflux or the number of times your baby spits up or vomits the formula, as well as address a lactose sensitivity (or colicky symptoms). Remember, we were also talking about sleeping at night. The chance that your baby will sleep for longer periods because they feel fuller for longer (the satiety effect) is almost a definite. An added benefit of the SD formula is that it is sucrose-free.

Remember, that it is always important to establish which problem is the biggest concern at a particular point in time. Sometimes the very same baby that is constantly hungry but also presenting with reflux might actually need to be on an Anti-Reflux formula instead. At least with these formulas you will definitely address the reflux problem if that is your biggest concern, as well as improve satiety. If you are one of the mommies that can continue to breastfeed or perhaps your baby is formula fed and only hungry in the evenings, it is also safe to use these formulas as a top-up or night feed.

Disclaimer: This post is based on personal experience and personal brand preference of the content author and has in no way been paid for or sponsored. BabyYumYum reserves the right to its opinions and fully supports the notion of promotion that breast is best in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) infant feeding guidelines http://www.who.int/topics/infant_nutrition/en/. Breast milk is the best food for infants. Good maternal nutrition is essential to prepare and maintain breastfeeding. If breastfeeding is not applied, an infant formula may be used according to the advice of healthcare professionals. Preparation and storage of any infant formula should be performed as directed on the tin in order not to pose any health hazards.

Also read:

Colic and choosing the right formula
Managing regurgitation and reflux in your baby