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One of the Biggest Concerns Parents Have is Whether Their Infant is Getting Enough to Eat

I have a parent who wants me to feed a 4 month old a whole bottle at 11:30 AM. Typically he does not want to drink it all and he really fusses if I make him. What should I do?
It sounds like baby is telling you he is done eating, and you are listening! One of the biggest concerns parents have is whether their child is getting enough to eat. Infants should decide how much to eat based on internal hunger cues, and should not be forced to finish a bottle when they are showing signs of fullness. The parent’s feeding instructions may be conflicting with the baby’s internal cues because there is either too much breast milk or formula being offered, or the infant is not ready to eat at 11:30 AM.

You can educate the parent about the following feeding guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (www.healthychildren.org):

  • On average, babies will eat 2.5 ounces of formula a day for every pound of body weight
  • Babies will eat about 3 to 4 ounces per feeding during the first month, and will increase the volume by 1 ounce per month until they have reached a maximum of 7 to 8 ounces.
  • By 6 months, infants will likely eat 6-8 ounces at 4 or 5 feedings over 24 hours.

These are general guidelines, and it’s normal for an infant’s intake to vary from day to day. As baby grows older and the volume of breast milk or formula eaten at each feeding increases, their natural feeding schedule will change to allow more time between feedings. He may no longer be ready for a bottle at 11:30 AM, and you can help the parent identify baby’s hunger signals and work with him or her to adjust the feeding schedule.

If you think the parent is asking you to feed the whole bottle because they are concerned about “wasting” leftover breast milk or formula, ask them to provide 5-6 ounces of milk or formula for each feeding, along with a few additional bottles containing 1-2 ounces in case baby is hungry for more.

Encouraging infants to continue eating after they are full can set the stage for overeating and obesity later in life. Don’t be afraid to educate parents in a positive, supportive way. However, if the parent reports continued feeding problems, encourage them to talk to their pediatrician.

This post was written by Monica Griffin, MS, RD, LD.

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