Your baby/toddler’s ability to regulate their appetite

Birth

Babies can partly control their energy intake and can reject a milk feed if they are no longer hungry from soon after birth. This regulation will improve as they get older. This is because your baby needs to be able to control the amount of milk that they take.

2 months

Your baby will be able to regulate their intake according to internal cues (i.e. whether they are feeling full or hungry)

4-6 months

The Department of Health recommends that infants should be given foods other than breast milk until around six months of age. The European guidelines for the introduction of solid/complementary foods is between four and six months. At this age your baby will begin to adjust their energy intake when solid foods are introduced to ensure they do not take in more food and milk than they need. You should follow your baby’s hunger and satiety cues whilst giving complementary foods. If parents or carers follow the signs that their infant is hungry or has had enough to eat, the infant will be more likely to have a healthy BMI as a toddler.

14 months

  • May began to imitate adults eating

24 months

  • May imitate other children eating
  • Begin to eat in response to portion sizes

36 months

Some young children (3-6 years) will respond to prompts to eat more by finishing what is on their plate. This is only true of children who like to copy others’ eating behaviour and can therefore lead to overeating in an overweight child. However, for some fussier children repeated prompts or pressure to eat can lead to a reduction in food intake as meal times can become uncomfortable for the child.

Also if ‘treat’ foods are restricted then pre-school children will eat more of these foods when they become available.

Signs your baby is hungry

Birth

Your baby will turn their head to root for the nipple and will cry when hungry. They also signal hunger by sucking their fist.

4 months

  • Your baby might show renewed night waking, even when they previously slept through the night
  • They will suck their fists between feeds if hungry

Your baby may do the following to show that they are hungry when solid foods begin to be introduced:

  • Open mouth for food
  • Move head towards spoon with mouth open
  • Watch food
  • Reach for food
  • Grasp food and start to put in mouth – the start of self-feeding

9 months

As infants get older and more used to food, they will become excited when they see it prepared and try to take food that others are eating. Your baby will be showing a clear interest in feeding themselves and will point to foods they want to eat.

12 months

May start to say the word for the food they want.

Signs your baby/toddler has had enough or dislikes the food

Birth

If your baby is milk fed they can show that they have had enough by:

  • stopping sucking
  • spitting out the nipple or teat and turning their head away
  • eat slower than usual

4 months

When your baby has moved on to solid foods, they can show they have had enough by:

  • turning their head away from the spoon
  • clenching mouth shut
  • spitting out food
  •  holding food in mouth
  • showing a disgust facial expression at disliked food
  • blocking the mouth with the hand
  • crying

12 months

At this age infants may show that they have had enough by:

  • throwing food
  • signalling ‘no’ in response to unwanted food given to them
  • be distracted by toys at mealtimes

14 months

Toddlers may try to:

  • distract their parents
  • become distracted
  • move away from the meal or meal table

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