How Much Food Do Babies Actually Need? Day 3: How Much Food Do Babies Actually Need

How Much Food Do Babies Actually Need?

Just like babies are different, so are their appetites! One day, a baby might devour everything in sight, and the next, the same baby will manage to nibble on a few bites. This pattern may leave some parents wondering whether their baby is eating “enough.” So how much food is the right amount for your baby based on their age? Let’s understand age-appropriate serving size suggestions.

Understanding Your Baby's Appetite

It’s important to recognize that each baby is unique, and their appetite will vary. Comparing your baby’s eating habits to those of other babies can lead to unnecessary stress and confusion. Babies’ growth during their first year is rapid, and proper nutrition plays a pivotal role in this phase. 

But remember that breast milk or formula continues to be the primary source of nutrition for babies under 1 year. When your baby doesn't finish a meal, it's okay because they are still receiving essential nutrients from their milk.

The Size of a Baby's Tummy

A newborn’s stomach is incredibly small, about the size of a marble. By day 10 of their life, it grows to the size of a ping pong ball. Even at 1 year, a baby's stomach is still quite small, about the size of their tiny fist. This limited stomach capacity means that your baby can't consume large quantities of food in one go.

Serving Size Versus Portion Size

  • Portion size refers to the amount of food your baby can eat in one sitting, which can vary based on their appetite.
  • Serving size, on the other hand, is a reference used by nutritionists to assess a child's food intake. Babies may eat more or less than the recommended serving size, and that's perfectly normal.

Why Serving Size Matters 

We don't recommend measuring every serving you give your baby, as this can create unnecessary stress at mealtimes. However, understanding serving sizes can provide valuable insights into your baby’s nutritional needs and help set appropriate expectations.

A Visual Guide for Measurements

In this article, we will use common measurement units like cups and tablespoons. But, there’s no need to measure food precisely; you can eyeball these measurements using simple tricks:

  • The tip of your thumb equals 1 tablespoon.
  • The entire thumb is about 2 tablespoons.
  • A whole egg or ping pong ball is equivalent to a quarter (3/4th) cup.

ICMR Recommendations for Babies

Here are the recommended serving sizes of food per day, following the guidelines provided by the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) in the Dietary Guidelines for Indians for babies aged 6-12 months:

Dietary Guidelines Indians babies aged 6-12 months by day:

  •     Total Calorie Requirements: 80 kcal/kg/day
  •     Protein Requirement: 1.69 g/kg/day

Food Groups and Suggested Serving Sizes Per Day:

  • Cereals and Millets: 3-4 tablespoons

  • Pulses: 3-4 tablespoons

  • Vegetables: 4-8 tablespoons

  • Fruits: 4-8 tablespoons

  • Fats/Oil: 4 teaspoons 

Let's break down suggested serving sizes for babies aged 11 months, keeping in mind that these are general guidelines and all babies are unique.

    Serving Sizes for Babies 11 Months

    Family foods: Between 9 and 12 months, the aim is to transition your baby to family foods. You want more of their meals to resemble what the rest of the family is eating, with some adjustments to make them suitable for your baby.

    Balanced meals: Consider adding an extra meal at this stage. Include foods like pulses, grains, millets, meats, vegetables, and fruits in their diet. Ensure a diverse range of textures, flavors, nutrients, and tastes.

    If you're practicing baby-led weaning, provide your baby with preloaded spoons according to the recommended serving sizes, in addition to finger foods. A combination of approaches works best, allowing your baby to explore some foods independently while you offer others.

    Chewing skills: From 9 to 12 months, focus on encouraging your baby's chewing skills. If they've been primarily on purees so far, it's time to introduce more chewable foods. While your baby is getting used to finger foods and more solid textures, you might notice that their overall consumption of solid food reduces compared to when they were on purees. That’s okay! Keep offering chewable foods so your baby has opportunities to develop an essential life skill like chewing.

    Serving sizes: When serving these foods, provide approximately 2-3 tablespoons of soft, bite-sized pieces. Keep in mind that you should offer 2-3 tablespoons of each food group included in the meal. Opt for smaller-sized pieces, especially as your baby refines their pincer grasp. Adjust the portions based on your baby's appetite, and it's perfectly fine if they want to eat more.

    Cow’s milk: Between 11 and 12 months, start introducing a small quantity of cow's milk in an open cup, to help your baby become accustomed to it.

    Be flexible: It’s challenging to precisely measure the amount of food your baby consumes, whether in tablespoons or otherwise. Therefore, our recommendation is, focus on ensuring there’s a variety of foods that offer essential nutrients and don’t worry about exact measurements.


    WE SUGGEST: Ensure your baby is in a good sitting position during mealtime. Follow your baby's hunger and fullness cues, avoid force-feeding. Adjust portion sizes according to their appetite.


    3 Tips to Remember!

    While serving sizes provide a helpful reference, be flexible and responsive to your baby's needs. Growth indicators like urine, bowel movements, sleep, and energy levels are more important than precise serving sizes.

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