As your baby begins eating solid foods, you may find yourself with all sorts of questions: When they push the spoon away, does it mean that they’re full or that they don’t like mashed peas? Will feeding them a few extra bites keep them from getting hungry before morning? Can that same subtle encouragement lead to overeating?
Follow your baby’s cues
What every parent should know is that babies have terrific built-in systems for gauging when they need food and when they’ve had enough. If you let your child follow the cues of their natural appetite, they’ll eat what they need to fuel their growth and development without overdoing it.
Stick to a schedule
While your baby’s appetite can vary from day to day, it’s best to stick to a general schedule for offering meals and snacks. If they pick at their food or mostly ignores a meal, don’t force them to eat, as they’ll likely make up for it at the next meal or the next day. There are some common signs a baby is hungry or full that you can pick up on.
Signs a Baby Is Hungry
Here are 5 typical signs a baby is hungry that you can watch for in your little one. You definitely want to make sure your baby is getting enough to eat and feeling comfortably full.
- Opening their hands, opening their mouth.
- Reaching for a spoon.
- Pointing to food.
- Acting excited when food is served.
- Using words or gestures to communicate readiness to eat.
Opening their hands, opening their mouth.
A hungry baby is an eager one. If you make an exaggerated expression with your eyes and mouth wide open as you bring a spoonful of food toward your baby, they’re especially likely to imitate you and eat willingly.
Reaching for a spoon.
Not only does your bright baby want to do everything that you do, like master holding that spoon, but they know from experience what’s in the spoon. And when they’re hungry, they want it right now.
Pointing to food.
Gesturing is a key way your baby communicates before they’re able to say words like “applesauce!” or “cracker!”
Acting excited when food is served.
Your baby associates food with the happy feeling of having their hunger satisfied. So when food appears and they’re hungry for it, they may wave their arms, kick their legs, and smile at the sight of it. This is a simple, easy way to tell when a baby is hungry.
Using words or gestures to communicate readiness to eat.
By about 10 months, your baby may make sounds to express hunger—“ba ba!” for bottle, for example, or mmm sounds! They may point to their high-chair tray or to their mouth when they see the food. This action lets you know right where they want it to go.
Signs a Baby Is Full
Here are 5 common signs a baby is full and doesn't want to eat any more. It's important your baby gets enough to eat, but it's also important you don't force them to eat too much.
- Closing their mouth and refusing to open it.
- Turning their head away.
- Slowing the pace of feeding.
- Pushing food away.
- Shaking head.
Closing their mouth and refusing to open it.
Whether the food is liquid or solid, if their lips are clamped, it’s a sure sign that your baby isn’t interested in having more of it.
Turning their head away.
A baby who isn’t self-feeding yet will turn away from an approaching spoon when they’re full, and it is an easy sign a baby is full.
Slowing the pace of feeding.
At the start of a meal, your hungry baby will polish off the small portions you provide and eagerly accept more. By the end of a meal, though, they may not finish what you give them. They may dawdle more, and less food will actually make it into their mouth.
Pushing food away.
When your child has had enough, they may ignore the food completely or start to play with it. If it winds up in their hair, smeared all over their high-chair tray, or on the floor, these are pretty reliable signs that they have eaten enough.
Older babies and toddlers may gesture emphatically to make their desires known, especially when their answer is “no!” It’s not always easy to know whether your child is expressing dislike of a particular food or if they’re just full. But if they show other signs of disinterest, and if they’re refusing what’s normally a favorite, chances are good that they’ve had enough and are ready to move on to the next activity.
Deciphering your baby’s wants and needs when eating solids can be tough at first but follow their cues and you’ll soon know all the tricks. Looking for more tips on which solid foods to get your baby started on? Get some finger food ideas.