Many of my friends are new moms and have babies between four and six months of age, so they’re beginning to feed them solids. The question I’m always asked is, “How do I know when he’s had enough?”
“Stop Eating” Signals
Recent research shows that infants are born with an instinct, referred to as their appestat, which sends a “stop eating” signal to the part of the brain that controls appetite. Trusting this inborn sense about how much food will satisfy his appetite lays the foundation for good eating habits for the rest of his life.
To heed your baby’s appestat, pay close attention to when he signals he’s full.
Here are clues to look for:
Signals from Newborns and Toddlers
Spits out nipple or falls asleep.
Six to twelve months:
Turns head away to regulate pace or end feeding.
Refuses to open mouth.
Spits out food.
Stores food in mouth.
Pushes dish, cup, or bottle away.
One to two years:
Shakes head no.
Puts hand over mouth.
Pushes away the hand that offers food.
Uses simple words like “No,” “Don’t,” or “Away”.
Pushes away or throws plate, cup, or spoon.
Two to three years:
Combines words, “All done” or “Get down”.
Pushes away plate.
Tries to remove bib.
Let Your Child Follow His or Her Own Hunger Cues
Infants and toddlers who are allowed to follow their hunger and satiety cues, eating only as much as their bodies need for good health, will develop habits of moderation that should last a lifetime; however, as important as it is to let the child judge how much food he wants, it can be one of the most difficult things for a parent to do.
Start with Small Portions
If a child’s natural “appestat” breaks down because he is frequently encouraged to eat when he is full, feeding problems can develop and determining when and how much to eat may become a battle between parent and child. Remember that many parents tend to give infants and toddlers larger portions than necessary—and then expect them to finish all the food on their plates. Always start with small portions—then let your little one show you in his own way if he wants more.
About the Author
Tina Ruggiero, MS, RD, LD is a sought-after nutritionist, spokesperson and author. Fondly called The Gourmet Nutritionist, Tina is heard on TV, radio and her writing has appeared in magazines such as Family, Men’s Health, and First for Women. She is also a nutrition correspondent for NBC’s syndicated television show Daytime where she is seen regularly by millions of viewers around the nation. Her blog www.voiceofreason.net is often sited in magazines, newspapers and on the Internet for its reliable, accurate and inspiring content. Tina’s first book, The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet, will be on store shelves December, 2010.