‘How much food should my baby be eating?’ ‘How much food should I offer?’ These are two of the most commonly asked questions I get in my online virtual clinics.
When you ask your parents, friends, Health Visitors, google etc the answer most of my clients get is ‘there are no official guidelines’ and ‘every baby is different’.
As a nutrition expert (and mother of two who has been in the same boat) I think this is unhelpful and actually it is possible to give guidance, you just need to seek out an expert in feeding babies to obtain this information, and understand a bit of context.
To save you this task and to make life easier for you I have a guide on this very topic called 'How to check my baby is eating enough?' that you can download here.
However, It’s not easy to get portion sizes 100% spot on all of the time. Just when you think your on an even keel, your baby will throw all her food on the floor / at you / paint the walls / feed the dog instead!
During your baby’s weaning journey her appetite will fluctuate dramatically and so will the amount of food she chooses to eat, keeping you on your toes. This is a result of a combination of any number of the following factors:
changing activity levels - has she started to stand,
rapid cognitive development - when she's learned a new skill,
variations in the nutritional value of the food on offer (babies have an amazing ability to stop eating when they have received the right amount of nutrition),
hot weather, cold weather,
feeling poorly and
Therefore while having portion size guidelines can be a helpful rule of thumb, I always advise parents to look back across a period of time, for example the last week or so and reflect on what your baby has eaten, rather than worry about what they’ve taken in at any particular meal. Consider this with where they are on their growth centile (red book). If she’s growing fine and following her centile line, don’t worry.
When to be concerned?
Seek advice if your baby’s growth starts to move upwards or downwards from their centile line. Always go on at least 2 different measurements on two different dates as babies are notoriously difficult to measure in length, moreover a full bladder can make the difference of several hundred grams in weight!
Ask for guidance if your baby’s milk intake increases or decreases dramatically from the week before.
If your baby’s food intake is no where near the portion sizes suggested in my guide, you might want to talk to a Paediatric Registered Dietitian. It may be that they simply love their milk feeds and just aren’t learning their hunger cues.
You will also need to talk to a professional if they haven’t progressed from purees onto finger foods as experiencing more complex textures are crucial to help with motor and speech development as well as nutrition.
To find a Registered Dietitian your Health Visitor or GP can make an NHS referral, or you can self refer to a freelance Registered Dietitian like me privately.
If you’ve found this post useful and want to know more about your baby’s nutrition and growth during their first year of life, you can become a founding member of my online weaning course. This is limited to just 20 people and is heavily discounted in exchange for your feedback. It’s a beta test group to make sure it includes everything parents want and need to know. To find out more or sign up click here.