It’s a question every mother asks at one point or another, do babies really know when they are full?
“Babies come with a remarkable self-regulation system when it comes to eating,” says Dr. Denise Scott, M.D., a pediatrician with JustAnswer. “Typically, when they’re hungry, they eat, and when they’re full, they stop.”
“Young babies under 3 months have a sucking reflex, so it is possible to overfeed,” Dr. Arunima Agarwal, M.D., a board-certified general pediatrician in New York shares.
“If a baby is exclusively breastfed it’s harder to overfeed, though, compared to bottle feeding.”
“Talk to your pediatrician about the approximate amount your baby should feed — for example, ages 0-4 months should drink about 2-4 oz, 8-12 times per day,” explains Dr. Agarwal.
“A baby eats more at a feed as they grow, so by 5-6 months they will probably drink 4-6oz at a time, and by 7-12 months they drink 6-8oz per feed.”
“Initially, when hungry, an infant will suck more vigorously and continuously,” says Dr. Scott. “Once they are feeling full, they begin to take longer pauses between sucking and may release or turn away from the bottle or breast.”
In addition, a baby who is full will be more happy, Dr. Scott shares, and they will relax with their hands open rather than fisted — and may even fall asleep in your arms.
All of these are satiety cues and are an indication to end the feeding. And if you’re worried your baby still might be hungry, thankfully, they are pretty vocal when they have a grumbly tummy.
“Crying is still one of the more common signals that a baby is hungry,” Dr. Agarwal shares.
So is it a big deal if you overfeed your baby? Yes and no, experts say.
“If a baby overfeeds, they become uncomfortable due to fullness in their stomach and may become fussy or spit up,” says Dr. Scott.
“If your baby has a big spit up, definitely take a break and hold them upright to help digest,” advises Dr. Agarwal.
And when it comes to solid foods, your kiddo will more than likely give you physical cues.
“If your child is being fed baby foods or solids, they may close their mouth or shake their heads as a spoon approaches,” says Dr. Scott. “They might also show signs of wanting to get out of their chair as signals that they have had their fill.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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