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Help, my baby is not eating enough!

Are you worried that your baby is not eating enough food? Wondering how they subsist mostly on milk (or even air?!) some days?

Or maybe you just came from a visit to the doctor or health nurse, and were concerned about your baby's (or toddler's or child's) growth. First of all, you are the parent. You know your baby best. Trust your baby - and you will do a great job! Often recommendations about how much your baby should be eating come from health care providers who are short on time and are just following the standard (and sometimes old) recommendations. Some are not parents themselves, or they may not be very familiar with current infant feeding practices.

It's common to see government-produced handouts with a days worth of food for the average baby or toddler. I have had many parents come to me, concerned that their baby isn't eating even close to the amounts listed in these guidelines. Heck, my 18 month old doesn't eat this much and some days my 5 year old doesn't either!

I reassure parents that this handout is a guideline as to what you can OFFER your baby in a day. Whether they choose to eat it or not, is not your concern. Yes, you are the parent, and it's your job to be worried about your baby.....but it's not your job to force them to eat a certain amount of solids. Breastmilk is your babe's main source of nutrition until about a year anyways. Try to relax, and know there is not a certain amount of food your baby "should" eat in a day. Other than the amount he/she chooses to eat that day.....a little, a lot or nothing at all!

If you try to force your child to eat more, again it will backfire and they will probably eat less than they really want to. Children have little control over things in life, and the amount of food they eat is one of the things they can control! This can turn eating into a power struggle between parents and children. Children “win” and everyone ends up frustrated every time they sit at the table. Your child is the best judge of his own appetite. And while we don't understand, as adults eat pretty much the same amount of food every day - young children's appetites flucutuate greatly day-to-day.

If your child is small or thin, you may be especially worried about the amount of food they eat. Genetics and our child’s growth patterns are good indicators of their health. The 50th percentile on growth charts is not the weight “goal” for your child. Half of children weigh just more than the 50th percentile, and half weigh less. Some are off the charts in one direction or the other, and if this is their pattern of growth, that is ok. If your baby is happy and active, they are likely getting enough food! However if your baby's weight decreases, or their growth flat-lines, then you may want to consult with a dietitian.

Want to know more about feeding your baby & specifically about Babyled Weaning? Sign up for my free webinar "How to get started with Babyled Weaning" here

Jennifer House is a Registered Dietitian, author & mom of 3. From Baby-led weaning to picky eating and meal planning, she helps you to make feeding your family easier

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