Did you know your baby can “talk” to you from day one? When it comes to feeding, it is very important for babies to communicate the needs so that they are fed when needed and are left alone when they are full. Breastfed babies can easily stop feeding and since the moms have no way to estimate the number of ounces they ate, they are less likely to be pushed to eat more. But bottle fed babies are a different story.
The amazing skill given at birth
All babies are born with an innate ability to regulate caloric intake and eat exactly the amount they need. But recent research shows that bottle fed babies are 2.5 times more likely to become obese toddlers. It may happen because parents are not necessarily aware of the importance of supporting this amazing ability to self regulate.
They may ignore the fullness cues of their babies and focus on the number of ounces they are “supposed” to drink instead. On the other side, the researchers suggested that it is possible to avoid overfeeding if parents look for the baby’s hunger-satiety signals.
Stay responsive when feeding
This is not a big news. Nutritionists like Ellyn Satter have been encouraging parents to follow the baby’s cues for decades. Feeding is a two-way process and a baby is an active player. Responsive feeding and trusting children’s appetites is a way to help them stay attuned to their hunger-satiety mechanisms.
I am happy to see that the importance of following children’s cues is becoming mainstream in pediatric nutrition field now.
According to my Pediatric Nutrition Assessment pocket guide (you can see parts of it reproduced below), stopping to suck and turning a head away are the most common ways your baby uses to “tell” you she is not hungry any more, whether you are breast- or bottle- feeding.
To avoid overfeeding your baby when bottle feeding:
- Hold the baby in your arms when bottle feeding instead of propping the bottle in a crib or stroller. It is a safer way to feed your baby and it also makes it easier for her to show you when she had enough.
- Be guided by your baby, not by the number of ounces in the bottle. Your baby may be hungrier some days than others.
- Stop when your baby is showing one of the signs of fullness such as stopping to suck and turning the head away.
- As your child grows up and you progress to solids, stay attuned to to her satiety signals. When children are full, they become easily distracted by the surroundings or may show lack of interest in feeding by throwing food on the floor.
How do you know when your child is full?
|Newborn||Spits out nipple or falls asleep when full|
Stops sucking when full
|Head up||Spits out nipple or falls asleep when full|
Stops sucking when full
|Supported Sitter||Turns head away from spoon when full|
May be distracted or notice surroundings more when full
|Independent Sitter||Slows down in eating when full|
Clenches mouth shut or pushes food away when full
|Crawler||Pushed away food when fullSlows down in eating when full|
|Beginning to walk||Shakes head to say “no more” or when full|
|Independent toddler||Uses words like ‘all done” or “get down”|
Plays with food or throws food when full
(Source: Leonberg B., ADA Pocket Guide to Pediatric Nutrition Assessment. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2008)
Pettigrew S. Primary care implications of parents’ nutrition beliefs Australian Journal of Primary Health, 2009, 15, 146–151
B. G. Gibbs, R. Forste. Socioeconomic status, infant feeding practices and early childhood obesity. Pediatric Obesity, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/j.2047-6310.2013.00155.x
Satter E. Child of Mine. Feeding with love and good sense.
Leonberg B., ADA Pocket Guide to Pediatric Nutrition Assessment. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2008
Your baby is unique.
So why copy how everyone else is starting solids? Welcome your baby into the wonderful world of food using this safe and responsive method.