How Much Should My Baby Eat?
Sarah was a new mom and just starting solids with her baby. She’d read up on all the information she could find. She compared spoon feeding to baby-led weaning. She researched the important brain nutrients such as choline and DHA.
But Sarah still had one burning question, “How much should my baby eat?”
The Story Behind Energy Needs
Compared to toddlers and older children, babies have higher caloric requirements per pound of body weight. Most young infants between 0-6 months need about 100-120 calories/kg/day, and by one year, around 95-100 calories/kg/day.
Despite having high calorie needs, babies don’t actually need to eat as much food as you might think. At 6 months, all of your baby’s nutritional needs come from breastmilk or formula. Through the remaining transition from 6 months to a year, food and breastmilk or formula will do a balancing act to cover your baby’s requirements. Depending on your baby’s age and stage of food introduction, this amount of food may be only a few tablespoons of each food group in a day.How much should I feed my baby? Click To Tweet
Appetite and Self-Regulation
Knowing how much food to feed your baby is only half the battle. You also need to have a keen eye on his or her appetite.
Thankfully, babies are very skilled at regulating their food consumption, something called self-regulation. And remarkably, even before your child can talk, he is able to give physical signs that indicate he is still hungry or that he is done eating, such as crying or turning his head away.
Signs of Your Baby’s Appetite
|Your Baby May be Hungry if…||Your Baby May be Full if…|
|Your baby fusses or cries. |
|Your baby decreases the rate of sucking or stops sucking.|
|Your baby smiles, gazes or coos at you during a feeding.||Your baby spits out the nipple.|
|Your baby moves her head toward the spoon or bottle. |
|Your baby becomes easily distracted or pays more attention to the environment around her.|
|Your baby reaches for or points to food.||Your baby moves her head away from food.|
|Your baby shows excitement when food is offered.||Your baby slows the pace of eating. |
|Your baby uses sounds, words or signs to indicate hunger.|
Your baby’s hunger and fullness cues are an essential part of the feeding process. Denying your child food when she is hungry or trying to feed your child more when she is telling you she’s done has the potential to interfere with this natural ability to self-regulate food consumption.
That’s Great, But…
All this is terrific in theory, but you’ve got a real baby you’re dealing with! You may be wondering…
“What if my baby doesn’t eat all the food I’ve made for her?”
“What if my baby is still hungry after I’ve fed her enough food for the day?”
Use Starter Portions and Honor Appetite
The concept of a starter portion is an amount of food to offer your baby initially, while letting you pay attention to your baby’s appetite cues. Appetite cues are the most important indicators for offering more food or stopping the feeding session. Although starter portions offer a guideline of what amount of food to give to your baby, they are not a definitive meal plan, per se.
The baby feeding chart below summarizes a starting point for portion sizes from each food group.
Note: The emphasis of this chart is on solid food, which should begin around 6 months of age for most babies. Breastmilk and infant formula have been left off this chart, however all babies should be consuming either breastmilk or formula throughout the first year of life.
Starter Portion Sizes for Baby
|Grain Products||~1-2oz||Iron-fortified mixed grain cereals, bread, crackers|
|Vegetables||~2-4 oz||Cooked, plain veggies like sweet potato, carrots, or broccoli May be strained, pureed or mashed|
|Fruits||~2-4 oz||Plain, ripe, soft fruits such as banana, mango, peaches May be strained, pureed, or mashed|
|Protein-rich foods||~1-2 oz||Plain strained, pureed, or mashed meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, yogurt, or mashed legumes|
|Grain Products||~2-4 oz||Iron-fortified infant cereals, unsweetened cold cereals, bread, crackers, soft noodles, corn grits, soft tortilla pieces|
|Vegetables||~4-6 oz||Cooked, finely chopped, diced veggies such as squash, beets, spinach|
|Fruits||~4-6 oz||Grated, finely chopped or diced soft, ripe fruits|
|Protein-rich foods||~2-4 oz||Ground, finely chopped, diced meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, yogurt, or mashed legumes|
*According to the AAP, from 8-12 months, your baby will need about 750-900 calories per day, and 400-500 calories should come from breast milk or formula (about 24oz or 720ml a day).
**If you buy baby food or make your own, use these conversions to help you figure out how much you need:
2.5 oz = 5 tbsp
4 oz = 8 tbsp
6 oz = 12 tbsp
When starting out, offer your child an appropriate starter portion based on his age from most food groups.
Let your child enjoy eating and watch for his appetite signals. If he’s still hungry, offer more food. Try to give him a balanced representation of what’s on the menu for the meal. If he’s showing signs of fullness, end the meal.
Your baby’s hunger and appetite will generally depend on his size, activity level, and stage of growth.
Most importantly, remember that every baby is different. And every day can be different! You will want to be flexible. Sometimes your baby will want to eat more or less than she is “supposed to,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to worry. Babies are good at figuring out how much to eat and when to stop, provided you respond appropriately to his feeding and appetite cues.
For more information on starting solids with your baby, check out my book, The Smart Mom’s Guide to Starting Solids.
Feeding Guide from the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program.
Check out this site for more information on portion sizes for your 1-4 year old child.
Written by: Jill Castle, MS, RDN
Published on: February 14, 2018
Updated on: February 19, 2018