Is Your Baby Eating Enough?

By Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

When your baby starts eating solid foods around six months of age, you may wonder whether he's eating enough. What's the right amount of food for infants? That depends.

Every baby is different

Some babies are consuming breast milk or infant formula only at the six-month mark (although they should be starting complementary foods – foods other than breast milk or formula – at about six months of age). On the other hand, an eight-month old with a hearty appetite may be enjoying three meals a day of infant cereal and pureed fruit, vegetables, and meats in addition to breast milk or formula.

Healthy children typically eat according to the energy they require. Your pediatrician will probably tell you that as long as you offer your child enough of the foods that are right for his developmental stage, he'll get the energy and nutrients he needs to grow.

Don't force the feeding issue

Your baby may eat according to an inner clock that mystifies you, but satisfies him. His appetite may be particularly perplexing as he gets older. As children approach their first birthday, they behave more like toddlers than infants.

Around one year of age, a child's growth slows down and his appetite may not be as hardy as it was earlier in life. It's not unusual for an infant to have one good meal, one fair meal, and one poor meal a day, given his fluctuations in mood and fatigue, the possibility that he's uncomfortable because of teething, or has a cold or ear infection.

Offer healthy foods and allow your baby to eat what he wants. Encouraging a child to finish his food when he's showing the signs of fullness, including swatting the spoon, turning away from the spoon, and spitting out every bite you give him, sets the stage for overeating later in life by teaching the child to ignore his body's cues that he has had enough food.

There is a small chance that your child's poor appetite is related to a medical condition. Speak to your pediatrician if your child's lack of appetite persists for more than a few days, or even sooner, if that makes you feel more comfortable.

Reality check

Children need to eat a balanced diet to grow and develop to their fullest potential. The typical measurements used to gauge an infant's well-being reflect whether or not he's eating enough.

At every pediatrician's visit, your child's weight, length, and head circumference are measured and graphed onto infant growth charts developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . The CDC growth charts assist health professionals in determining whether children are growing properly for their age. As long as your child is a healthy weight and is growing at the optimal rate, then there's probably nothing to worry about when it comes to his diet.

About the Author

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., is a registered dietitian, a writer, and mother of three. She has worked at the Joslin Diabetes Center and the American Heart Association, and for seven years counseled children and adults about healthy eating and disease prevention at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates in Boston.

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