A baby’s energy needs change from day to day, because of growth spurts, fatigue, weather, illness, and other things. All of these can affect your little one’s hunger. How can you make sure your baby is eating enough? Listen to baby’s signals!
Hunger is the signal the body sends when it needs energy. Hunger signals include:
- Growling stomach
- Stomach pain
- Lack of energy
Before babies can talk, it can be difficult to recognize these signals. But they do show their hunger in these ways:
- Wiggling their arms and legs
- Touching their mouth or face
- Making sucking motions, rooting for the breast
- Wanting to grab food and bring it to their mouth
A grumpy baby may be hungry!
Baby is not hungry anymore!
Babies know when they feel full. They’ll show you by:
- Detaching from the breast at the end of a nursing session
- Pushing away the spoon
- Closing their mouth
- Turning their head away during a meal
It’s important to listen! This will encourage baby to keep listening to what their body needs. Your role as parent is to help them recognize and listen to their hunger and fullness signals. If you force them to take a few bites when they’re no longer hungry, they’ll learn to ignore their signals and might start not liking the foods forced on them.
What influences hunger?
Like everyone, your baby’s needs won’t be the same every day. Don’t worry if he or she doesn’t eat much at one meal. If baby was very active during the day, he or she may be very hungry. But when tired, baby may eat very little.
Children will often be very hungry during growth spurts.
Even after eating a good amount at mealtime, it’s normal for baby to be hungry again 2 to 3 hours later. Keep in mind that babies need a lot of energy to grow and develop, but have a small stomach. So they need snacks to calm their hunger between meals.
How to encourage appetite
Hunger can also be influenced by a desire for a food or dish. That’s appetite! Think of how the smell of a nice soup or the crunch of chips can make you want some too. You might have eaten enough at the main meal, but still have an appetite for a small dessert. That’s perfectly fine!
A calm and pleasant setting can also influence appetite and help baby eat well. On the other hand, if baby feels stressed, is sick or the mealtime atmosphere is not ideal (arguing, an annoying noise, distractions, etc.), baby may not want to eat.
3 tricks to help your baby know they ate enough
1. Lead by example
Babies imitate what they see. Set an example by eating with your baby, taking your time. Remove any distractions. Avoid having toys at the table and turn off the TV.
2. Serve small portions
Serve a small portion to start. If baby is still hungry, give them another.
Big portions could encourage baby to eat more than he or she needs. It could also tempt you to make baby eat just a few more bites. If your baby has started speaking, ask them if they’re very hungry or just a little hungry before putting food on their plate.
3. Encourage them
Show your support by saying positive things. But avoid giving them the impression that they need to eat to earn your affection!
Here are examples of things you can say:
- “Hurray! You tried a new food!”
- “Good for you! You tasted a food you don’t like as much.”
Redaction : Fondation Olo
Scientific review : Mylène Duplessis Brochu, nutritionist, Dt.P., M.Sc.