How much should my baby eat when weaning?
This is a question I get asked so much in the clinic and a question that I wondered myself when I was weaning my daughters (now 11 & 8 years old!).
But, how much should I be giving them to eat, I wanted exact portions and someone to tell me this!
I want this blog to reassure you that there isn’t a definitive answer but I can definitely guide you on my tips to help you understand how much your baby should eat. The most important thing to remember is that every baby is different!
When you start weaning you might have found that your baby really enjoyed starting solid foods, on the flip side, you may have found that they really didn’t take to it and you really struggled to get them to eat anything. Every baby develops at different stages and the important thing is to allow them to guide you. Some babies will be ready for weaning around 5 months, others won’t progress until 7 months. The amount that your baby may eat at meal times can also vary and this is one of the main reasons why we don’t have any set portion sizes for babies when weaning.
We are so guilty of comparing our little ones to our friends babies, our nieces or nephews or our other children. This is human nature but really something that we should try our best not to do as our little ones are individual.
When you start weaning (introducing solid foods) this should be done alongside milk (breastmilk/formula) until at least 12 months old. You will probably find that by this age that your baby will start to reduce their milk intake as they increase the amount of solid foods that they eat.
So what should you look out for to make sure that your baby is eating enough;
Are they growing well? As long as your baby is growing and gaining weight well then no worries. You can get your baby's weight checked regularly at local weight in clinics if you are concerned.
Are they having wet & dirty nappies? What goes in must come out, so as long as they are eating and drinking enough they are doing just fine. If you are concerned about their nappies then speak to your doctor.
If your baby is sleeping too much and is lethargic then it may be that they aren’t getting enough energy from their food or milk.
If you do have any concerns then speak with your doctor.
So, what can you do to help?
Stay calm and let your baby guide you - try not to force them to eat the foods if they don’t want to. This may create anxiety for you as a parent, and may also mean your baby could develop a negative relationship with food.
Prepare - Get your foods cooked in advance - this means that you will be ready and not stressed and rushing to get food to your baby. You can try batch cooking and freezing (make sure you defrost and heat through thoroughly before serving)
Stick to a routine - when you start weaning you can give foods at the time of day that best suits you and your family but try and stick to this routine. A weaning routine means that your baby will be expecting you to give them food at a certain time in the day and this can help them with regulating milk intake alongside weaning. For instance, you may choose to start with lunch time as it’s busy in your house in the morning, if you do this for a week or so then you can then start to introduce foods in the evening and then at breakfast time.
There are also some other things that can impact your baby's appetite.
The weather - sometimes when it is warmer you might find that your appetite drops a little, this is the same for your baby.
Illness - if your baby is unwell they might prefer to have more frequent milk feeds, this is completely normal and after their illness their food intake will start to return to normal again.
Growth spurts - you might find that on occasion all your baby will want to do is eat, let them. They are likely taking in the extra kcals for growth. Growth spurts occur frequently during the first year of life.
Teething - when their naughty teeth are hurting it is likely that your baby's food intake will decrease. Again this is very normal.
Milk intake - watch your babies milk intake - if they are drinking too much milk then it is likely that they won’t want to eat any solid foods. A typical formula milk intake for a baby of 6 months old is around 850-1000mls ( 30-35oz). At around 10 months old intake is around 600-700mls (20-25oz).
How to help your baby to learn how to regulate their appetite?
Follow their cues, if they turn their head away or start to push the spoon away and seem to show no interest then stop. It is likely that they are full.
Speak to your baby, when the food is finished you could try and say, ‘all done’ or ‘all finished’. As your baby gets older you could then ask them if they are finished and wait for their response. Your baby will then start to associate these words with how their tummy feels.
Don’t overface your baby - don’t give too much at each meal. Remember that their tummies are only little and they will become full quite quickly. When you start off weaning I would always advise to start off with a couple of teaspoons of puree and also some soft cooked finger foods.
Why it is important to give a mixture of spoon feeding and finger foods
Development of oro-motor skills - giving a mixture of spoon feeding and finger foods helps your baby to develop coordination, movement and strength of the muscles of the lips, mouth, tongue and cheeks.
Coordination - giving finger foods allows your baby to learn how to move foods towards their mouth to eat (hand-eye coordination). This can also be the case with spoon feeding as your baby can follow your hand and can also hold the spoon themselves. It is important that your baby is allowed to feed themselves and that you don’t always spoon feed.
Texture & taste - your baby needs to experience lots of different textures and tastes and you can do this successfully by giving a mixture of spoon and finger foods when you start weaning. Not only will your baby be eating the foods but they will be feeling the texture and learning about things such as; wet and dry, soft and mushy etc.
Enjoy your weaning journey,