Understanding Baby Portion Sizes
The topic of baby portion sizes is one that gets a lot of attention from parents who are worried about two main things. You’re scared of feeding your baby too much, meaning they put on too much weight from a young age. Or you’re worried you don’t feed your baby enough, so they don’t develop at the ‘normal’ rate.
As a consequence, you want to know the right portion sizes to feed your baby. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Setting portion sizes for babies is harder than it is for adults. As adults, our portion sizes are dictated by the nutrients we need. We’re told to eat a certain amount of fruit and veg because we know that will give us the right balance of nutrients. With babies, it’s much harder to give strict portion sizes because they are so different. What works for one baby might not work for another one.
While this might be confusing and frustrating, we’ve put together a guide that will clear everything up for you.
How much should you feed your baby?
The amount of food your baby needs will depend on two main factors:
- How old is your baby?
- How full is your baby?
To start, the age of your baby plays a role in how much they need to eat. Babies that are under 6 months old will still only be drinking breast milk or infant formula. When they reach their half birthday, they can start eating solids. However, as noted by the CDC, breast milk/formula is still the main source of nutrition for your child up until they turn 1. Therefore, they’re not going to need a lot of extra food on top of the milk they’re getting daily. The older your baby gets, the more food you can start feeding them.
However, the second point comes into play here. It’s crucial to pay attention to your baby to see when they are full. Always stop feeding your baby when they show signs that they don’t want to eat anymore. Otherwise, you run the risk of over-feeding them and making them sick.
Common signs that your baby is full
Here are some of the obvious signs your baby doesn’t want to eat any more food:
- They turn their head away when food is nearby
- They close their mouth when offered food
- They physically try to push the food away
- They get upset when food is pushed towards them
- They make sounds to indicate that they are full
When you notice these signs, stop trying to feed your baby. They clearly feel full and don’t need more food, so they have been fed the right portion size already.
Common signs your baby is hungry
Likewise, you should also learn when your child needs to eat. This can help you when dealing with baby portion sizes as it tells you whether you should add more food or not. Here’s what to look for:
- They actively try to reach for food
- They eagerly open their mouth when you try to feed them
- Then get upset if the food starts being put away
- They try to get your attention to let you know they’re hungry
What is a good baseline portion size to feed a baby?
As mentioned previously, it is difficult to give strict advice for baby portion sizes. Nevertheless, you can see some general guidelines that you could follow.
If your baby has just started eating solid foods, start them off with very small portions and gradually build up. Begin with a couple of teaspoons of food and watch to see if your baby is full. If they still show signs of being hungry, feed them a little bit more. You gradually build up until you feed them around two tablespoons of food, which should be enough to satisfy most babies that are around 6 months old.
Keep up the two tablespoons portion until your child stops showing signs of fullness. If they are still eager to eat, you can add an extra tablespoon or two. You can keep adding to their portions, meaning some babies that are close to a year old could eat around 16 tablespoons per portion. But always make sure you watch for the signs of fullness as this is the main factor in telling you when to stop feeding your baby.
How often should you feed your baby?
On the topic of portion sizes, you also need to understand how often to feed a baby. You see, babies have tiny stomachs - much smaller than a regular child or adult. Therefore, they will struggle to eat a lot during one sitting. This means that feeding them three times a day won’t always be enough to help them get the right balance of nutrients to grow big and strong.
The only option is to increase the frequency of feeding. Most babies that are between 6-12 months will need to be fed every 4 to 5 hours. This gives their tiny stomachs a chance to digest between meals while ensuring they get enough calories per day to fuel their body and allow them to develop.
Obviously, as your baby gets bigger and older, their stomach will also increase in size. This will mean that their portion sizes increase, but the feeding frequency decreases.
Baby Portion Sizes: A Summary
The key point to take from this guide is that you have to pay attention to the cues your baby gives you. Don’t get too hung up on how much to feed your baby - watch how they react when you feed them. Start with small spoonfuls and wait to see when they show signs of being full. Once your baby is full, stop feeding and wait a few hours before you try again. Look for signs of hunger to know when they’re ready to eat and go through the same routine.
Slowly but surely, you’ll find that your baby portion sizes increase and that your baby needs to be fed less and less. Of course, if you have any concerns about feeding your baby and how they react to food, be sure to contact your doctor right away.
- Jennifer Akiyama