A big thank you to the parent who shared this question: "How much is enough food for my baby? Tonight I thought I would give in and see how it went. He polished off……. While she was specifically talking about how much food to provide at bedtime snack, I’m asked this question a lot, in fact I’m asked it at almost every workshop.
It’s quite an easy one to answer. And, the answer of how much food to give your baby applies to any meal or snack:
As much as they are hungry for.
Now at my workshops, this answer usually is met with confused faces. So, let me expand.
As the adult, it’s your role to provide opportunities to eat 5 or 6 times a day. It’s your child’s role to choose how much to eat.
I recognize that it’s difficult to trust them to know how much to eat. But it really is best to do so.
We’re born being able to know when we are hungry and when we are satisfied. Over time, through social pressures, we learn to not listen to our bodies and instead look to external cues for how much to eat. This is a contributor to eating disorders and obesity.
Studies show that when kids are raised in households where they’re told to stop eating before they’re satisfied (i.e. because the adult believes that their child has “had enough”), they learn to sneak food and gorge on food when they get the opportunity.
On the flip side, when kids are forced to eat more than they are hungry for, they learn to over-ride their bodies’ signals and they learn to overeat.
Instead, trust your child to listen to their bodies and eat as much as their bodies tell them. How much is enough food for your baby will vary from day-to-day. Some days they’ll eat so much that you don’t know where they’re putting it all. Other days they’ll eat so little that you won’t know where they’re getting their energy from.
You’ll know that your baby is getting enough to eat when they have lots of energy and their growth is tracking along their curve on their growth chart.
So, while the VIP who shared this question thought that she was “giving in”, she was actually doing the best thing for her child – teaching him to listen to and respect his own body. Great job Mom!
Check out my picky eating kids book for more tips on feeding your child to meet their nutrition needs.