The habits we learn early can stay with us for a lifetime — which is why it’s better to learn good habits early, not bad ones. This is especially true with eating habits. More and more, research shows that overweight babies grow into overweight children, who grow into overweight adults. One of the very best ways to prevent obesity is to start before they are two years old, preferably right at birth.
That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics really wants parents to know about responsive feeding.
Most parents feel better when their baby eats more — and eats on a predictable schedule. It’s comforting and reassuring. It helps parents feel certain that their baby has had enough to eat. It also makes it easier to organize the day or give instructions to babysitters. But when we push babies to eat more than they want, or to eat when they aren’t hungry, it can teach them bad habits that put them at higher risk of obesity.
It’s really important that babies eat when they are hungry and eat only as much as they need. That’s where responsive feeding comes in. Responsive feeding is learning your baby’s cues for hunger, and for being full, and responding appropriately to those cues.
Here are some signs that a baby might be hungry:
- she puts her hands in or near her mouth
- she makes sucking noises
- she puts her hands on her belly
- she is more active, moving her hands and feet
- she cries — but this is a late sign, often coming after the earlier signs didn’t bring food.
Parents should respond warmly and promptly to these signs, and should let the baby stop eating once she’s full. Signs of being full include:
- stopping and starting feeding frequently
- spitting out or ignoring the bottle or breast
- unlatching from the breast
- turning the head away
- slowing down, or falling asleep.
If a baby is showing these signs, parents should stop feeding, even if the baby has eaten less than usual, or less than the parent would like them to eat. That way, the baby learns to listen to her hunger cues and stop eating when she’s not hungry anymore, habits that can help keep her at a healthy weight for life.
If a parent is worried that their baby isn’t getting enough to eat, or isn’t growing well enough, the best thing to do is call the doctor and make an appointment. At the appointment, the baby can be weighed and examined to check for any problems. If there are problems, the doctor and parents can make a plan to address them and get the baby back on track. If there aren’t any, parents can feel comfortable listening to and following the baby’s cues.
The bottom line for parents: you provide, your baby decides.
Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” – Mark 11:24
“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” – Proverbs 12:25
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” – Luke 12:25
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:11
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” – James 1:2-3
“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” – Proverbs 3:6
“Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.”- Proverbs 16:3
“Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” Luke 12:24 – Luke 12:24
“It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” – Matthew 15:11
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