Is our baby eating too much?

Our baby Kate has been eating solid foods for two months now (she's seven months old) and she loves to eat.  Almost every day she goes through several jars of baby food and at least a half cup of cereal. And that’s on top of 24 ounces of formula a day.  She's on the 90th percentile for height and weight and we feel like we're going to wind up with a really fat kid.  She's definitely plump now, but cute. She howls if we try to stop feeding her before she's done.

How much should a baby eat?  That is almost every parent wants the answer!If Kate is enjoying two or three meals a day and you're making her mealtime pleasant, you can trust her to let you know if she's eating the right amount of food.   A baby who is at the 90th percentile for height and weight is in proportion.  Some babies, children and adults are naturally lean, and some babies, children, and adults are naturally round--which doesn't necessarily mean that they are fat.  I urge you to take pleasure in your cute baby and to not allow yourselves (or well meaning others) to judge her as anything other than just right.

Since Kate enjoys eating so much, you won't have to wonder if she's "getting enough".  Although it's important to have pleasant conversation and interaction at mealtimes, don't give her extra amounts of attention just she's eating, or she's more likely to associate food with the added bonus of being with you.  When she's done eating, play with her or sing her a song so that she doesn't lose the interactive time as soon as she stops chewing. 

Since Kate loves food, as she gets older, it will be important to avoid habits that tend to encourage eating too much or overeating in babies. For example, please avoid using food as a reward, as a pacifier, or to keep her occupied. In a few months you can begin to offer her formula in a cup with a spout and just use a bottle for water so that she doesn't associate the comfort of sucking with the comfort of food. 

There are some foods that it's wise to avoid for any baby, but especially for a baby who is so eager to eat.  Juice is a common "empty calorie food" that can get in the way of good nutrition.  There's no extra nutrition in juice that a baby needs, but babies who drink juice often start to prefer it to plain water.  Then, they start to demand juice when they're thirsty, but not necessarily hungry. 

Even though fruits are great foods for babies, be aware that lots of fruit isn't necessarily good.  Why? Some fruits have a high glycemic index, meaning that  they raise blood sugar levels quickly. Foods with a high GI are rapidly digested and absorbed. Low-GI foods are digested and absorbed more slowly and are generally healthier.

Of course, limit (or better, don't offer) salty and sugary snacks. These foods tend to encourage children with big appetites to eat when they're not hungry.  Be sure to read labels on any prepared foods and avoid those that have corn syrup or any extra added sugar.

If you are worried about Kate's weight because you or someone in your family has had a weight problem, it's probably a good idea to look at your overall pattern of eating in case there are any habits you'd like to correct in yourselves before Kate notices.  For example, if you automatically eat dessert as part of every meal, or keep chips and crackers around for casual snacking, you could start having these be occasional rather than routine treats. (Even naturally lean people can change to more nutritious habits or just go out for their sweets instead of tempting others).

If you aren’t already getting exercise as a family, this is a good time to make that a priority.  Active children and adults use up more calories.  If Kate spends time with her family having fun by taking walks, playing outside, and moving instead of sitting, she'll be as slim and healthy as her genetic body type can be without having to limit her food intake.