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How to Know if Your Baby Has Consumed Enough Milk or Solid Food

Draw the line between encouraging your baby to eat versus forcing him to eat.

Whether you're breastfeeding, cup-feeding, bottle-feeding or starting solids the typical way or through baby-led weaning, you only have one thing in mind: that your baby meets his daily nourishment requirement.

It starts with recognizing your baby's hunger cues and not giving him more than the amount that's good for him. When your little one starts to turn his head looking for the breast, opening his mouth, sucking his thumb, or puckering his lips, your little one could be hungry. When to stop feeding is another matter altogether. reached out to pediatrician and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) Dr. Jamie Isip-Cumpas for answers.

How to know when your baby is full

Babies zero to 6 months

Breastfeeding moms are often more worried if their little one is getting enough milk than if they're feeding their baby too much. But, remember your newborn's stomach, for example, is only as big as a calamansi (read more about your baby's tummy here).

"A breastfed baby shows that he is full when he has unlatched and appears satisfied, meaning he is not fussy or crying," Dr. Isip-Cumpas says.

"It's also important to watch that the breastfed baby is effectively breastfeeding — you hear audible swallowing, baby's mouth is wide open, the jaw and temples of the baby are moving — to ensure that there is effective milk transfer for him to be full," the doctor adds. (Another way to find out if your baby is getting enough is to count soiled diapers. Click here to read more.) 

A baby who is bottle-fed breast milk will show the same signs of fullness: he stops feeding, closes his mouth, and wants to sleep. But, compared to a baby who is latching directly onto the breast, Dr. Isip-Cumpas shares a bottle-fed baby may not immediately realize that he is already full. "This runs the risk that the baby can have nipple or milk volume confusion, with the baby preferring the quick, no effort bottle-feeding versus the 'slower' nursing session," she explained. 

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"If a mom really cannot breastfeed, then the caregiver should be taught how to cup feed or do paced bottle feeding and have mom breastfeed when she is home," advises Dr. Isip-Cumpas. 

Babies 6 months to 1 year

A study has linked overfeeding babies with rising rates of obesity in children. Breastfeeding babies for an extended period and utilizing a baby-led weaning approach to introducing solid food can help you and your little to learn and recognize fullness cues. But then, many other factors come into play, such as forcing feeding and distractions, to name a few. 

"A baby eating solids is full when he does not want to open his mouth anymore or is showing disinterest in his food," Dr. Isip-Cumpas shares. Exercise patience when your little one is just starting his first few meals; he needs more time to be interested and get used to it. "These babies should have an active role in eating such as being allowed to touch his food and get messy," Dr. Isip-Cumpas added. 

How to ensure your baby is getting enough without overfeeding

You need to find the balance between offering your baby food and making sure he gets the nutrients he needs to develop and grow. Here are some tips you can keep in mind:

Recognize your baby's fullness cues

If your baby shows signs of fullness when bottle-feeding, resist the urge to encourage him to drink more just because there's still milk left in the bottle. Expressed breast milk should be stored in small bags or containers in batches so you can thaw another bag when needed and not waste your precious liquid gold. 

Ensure your baby is ready for solids before you introduce it to him

Before you start your baby on solids, look for signs that he's prepared for it. Make sure your little one already has good head control and can sit comfortably on his own, and show some interest in eating food other than drinking milk. You may notice that he watches you eat and reaches for your food or looks eager to be fed. 

It's normal for babies to push food out of their mouths during the first few feedings as they're still getting used to the new texture in their mouths. Allow your child to adjust to the new tastes as well, as he may not instantly like all of them.

Start slowly and with small amounts

Introduce solids slowly. "Start off by giving the baby only one to two tablespoons of food once a day for a week or so and gradually increase the quantity and frequency as you see fit based on the baby’s interest, preference, and development," advises Dr. Isip-Cumpas.

However, she emphasized that sticking to mealtimes is crucial. Start feeding your baby solids once a day or every morning at first. Gradually add another meal to his feeding routine, until he's eating three meals and two snacks by the time he's a year old.

"Your goal is to give a variety of nutritious food by the time your child turns one year so that he will be able to eat table food independently with little assistance," she said. By the time your child can eat on his own, you will trust him enough to recognize what it feels to be full. 

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