Some very common questions mothers ask when they bring their little one for consultation are: 'My baby started complementary feeding, how do I know when he is still hungry or satisfied? or 'How much should I give at each meal?' To answer these questions, you have to learn to recognize those signals of hunger or satiety of the child They will tell us if they want to stop or if they expect to receive more food.
During the first months of the baby's life, when his only food is breastfeeding, we offer him the breast or bottle frequently and according to his demand. In those first few months, we learn to identify some signs that the baby is hungry, for example, she wakes up, sucks her fist, cries, opens her mouth when you bring her nipple or bottle close to her ... and you immediately realize that it is time to prepare her milk.
Once he has eaten, he decreases or stops the suction, he turns his head, purses his lips or falls asleep, indicating that he is already satisfied and does not want any more food, for now.
But, What happens when we start with complementary feeding? Before focusing on this topic, remember that your milk (breast milk or formula) will continue to be your main food, that is why we call this new stage complementary feeding, and the incorporation of new foods must be done progressively, starting with small portions that will continue increasing as the child grows.
It is also very important to be aware that it will be the child who determines how much will be eaten at each moment, and that this amount will vary from child to child and from day to day, so we must not compare it with what the brother ate at his age or what his cousin or the neighbor's son eats, neither will his appetite be the same all the days.
Likewise, it is convenient not to set an expectation of the type 'today you will eat everything that I put on the plate'. That can be very frustrating for both of you, turning mealtime into moments of crying and dissatisfaction, as well as taking risks of creating bad habits and creating future eating problems. Adults must focus on offering healthy, nutritious and varied foods and in the appropriate presentations, children will set the standard in terms of quantities.
So, How do you know if the baby is still hungry or satisfied? To find answers to this question, the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests adhering to the principles of perceptual eating (one of the dimensions of the so-called perceptual parenting - parenting style aimed at promoting the development of self-regulation, promoting cognitive, social and emotional development of the baby, and generating a greater connection between the child and his parents or caregivers). Perceptual eating involves taking three basic steps into account:
1. The child emits vocalizations, performs some motor actions, facial expressions, such as signs of hunger or satiety.
2. Parents or caregivers identify such actions and recognize them as signs of hunger or satiety., responding in a friendly and appropriate manner.
3. The child perceives that he will have a predictable response to the signal he emits.
The panel of experts on 'Best practices to promote healthy nutrition, eating patterns and weight status for babies and young children from birth to 24 months', led by Dr. Rafael Pérez-Escamilla, divides the signals hunger and satiety at different stages of complementary feeding:
- Up to 9 monthsThey are signs of hunger that the baby points to the food and wants to grab it with his hand or with a spoon; on the other hand, it will let you know that it is satisfied, when it begins to eat slower or pushes the food out.
- From 8 to 11 months Not only does he point to and reach for food, but he also gets excited when you show him or see food. And he will close his mouth or spit out the food, when he doesn't want any more.
- Between 10 and 12 months the baby makes words or sounds to make you understand his desire for a specific food and will let you know, with the movement of his head, that he no longer wants to continue eating.
- In the period from 12 months to 2 years He can take you by the hand and lead you to where what he wants is and incorporate slightly more complete sentences into his speech, letting you know that he 'wants that' with a spoken expression, accompanied by a gesture pointing to the food. Likewise, it will give you signs of satiety saying that it wants to get off its high chair or saying 'that's it' or 'I'm done', it loses interest in food and can start playing with it.
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