One of the most common questions I get is "How much should my baby eat?" Parents are understandably concerned when their baby doesn't actually eat much food in those first few months after starting solid foods. Many parents want to know what is normal.
Check out this video for some detailed information on figuring out portion sizes for your baby!
To most parents' consternation, the answer is: It depends.
Well, on your baby. Babies are born with their own intuition for what they need to eat. That, in and of itself, is what can be so frustrating and concerning to parents! We can't decide the exact amount that a normal, healthy baby needs day to day.
Maybe one day your baby is in the middle of a growth spurt and feels the need to eat all the food offered. The next day they might not be in a growth spurt anymore and might decide that only a bite or two of a meal will suffice. Yes, even a small baby can know how much they need!
As a concerned parent, it's understandable that you might want to know exactly how much you should expect to feed your baby. Parents deciding how much their baby and older kids should eat is quite the traditional model, when it comes down to it. Pediatricians used to always recommend the exact number of ounces of baby food parents should be giving. Parents were usually encouraged to go to any length to get their baby to eat that amount. Some pediatricians are still encouraging that.
Through lots of research and trial and error, we now know that that way isn't what is best for babies. Listening to your baby, and respecting their own innate hunger and fullness cues is what is best for them. I go into depth about the cues your baby may give you, and the reasons it's important to listen to your baby, in the video above.
We all want some actionable takeaways, so here is a place to start, as a general guideline only.
When your baby is just learning to eat solid foods, provide them with 2-3 types of food on their plate at the beginning of a meal. Use my First Foods Guide to choose foods that will make a balanced meal. Each type of food only needs one piece. In a case like the small raspberries above you can give a few. Have a plate to the side with some left over food available if they eat what is on their plate.
If you are feeding purees, start with just a jar.
That is the what to offer. It isn't the how much they should eat. One day your baby might eat all of that, or more accurately mouth/gum all of it if you are doing baby led feeding (because at this stage it is very normal for babies not to actually ingest much!) The next day they might take just one thing and not want the rest. It is all normal! Just keep providing this amount of food at the start of a meal for several months. It will help to not overwhelm your baby and allow them to eat as much as they feel the need for.
Approach the amount your baby is going to eat at a meal out of curiosity. Avoid having any preconceived notions. If you look at what they're eating as a window into what is going on in their body, you can actually learn a lot. Whether they're sick, growing, or bored, it can all be discovered through their eating habits. It is our job as parents to respect our baby's own needs, and to try our hardest not to impose our own worries and thoughts on them.
When it comes to how much your baby should be eating, the key is listening to your baby and following their cues. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all amount that babies should be eating on a day to day basis. To get even more specifics, be sure to watch the video above!
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