5 Habits You Should Start Right This Moment to Raise a Healthy Eater
Developing habits starts much earlier in life than we think, and even though infants are on a milk-only diet, the experts at the Infant Nutrition Council of America believes that you can begin instilling healthy eating habits in your baby from day one. No matter what your eating tendencies look like, babies get a clean slate, so if you want to raise a child with healthy habits and relationships when it comes to food, introduce these five practices early in your baby's life.
Know when your child is full.
Learning how to tell if your body is full is an important thing to know as you age, and you can help teach your child right from infancy. If your baby is pulling away from their bottle and appears finished, don’t enforce the “finish your plate” mentality and overfeed them. Pro tip: if you are tired of throwing away leftover milk, start preparing bottles based on how much your baby generally eats — you can always give them a little bit more later.
Wean off scheduled nighttime feedings once baby can eat enough to sleep through the night.
Once your child weighs about 11 pounds, they are able to eat enough to keep them full through five to six hours of sleep. If you’re waking them up for scheduled feedings, you may be interrupting their sleep to feed them when they’re not completely hungry. If your child is eating well throughout the day and sleeping soundly through the night, don’t stress about missed nighttime feeds (hey, that means they’re sleeping more — that’s great for them and you!).
Don’t immediately jump to feed your baby if they wake up in the middle of the night.
Some parents do the whole “cry it out” thing with their babies and won’t go into their bedroom at all when their child wakes up wailing. Even if you’re not one of those parents, don’t immediately turn to food if your baby wakes up in the middle of the night — wait a few minutes to see if they self-soothe, or try to lull them back to sleep with a song or mobile first. If all else fails, they’re probably looking for a midnight snack, perhaps because they didn't eat enough during their last feeding.
And don’t use food to calm a fussy baby during waking hours.
If your baby is crying or fussy but it isn't time for a feed yet, tend to their other needs first rather than handing them a snack or starting a bottle feed. Your child could be crying for any number of reasons — though yes, hunger could be one of them depending on when their last meal was. Sometimes a toy or a soothing rock in your arms could do the trick and won’t teach them that food can fix their mood (this is something they will be more attuned to as they age and you shove a container of fish crackers into their hands to get them to stop having a tantrum in the middle of Target).
Don't add or subtract feeds if you're worried about your child's weight.
It’s hard to gauge without regular doctor visits exactly how much weight your child is gaining and if it’s a healthy amount, especially if you’re solely breastfeeding and can’t tell how much your child is eating during each feeding. Rather than adding extra feeds — or adding time between feeds — because you’re worried about their weight, pay a visit to their pediatrician to see if they’re progressing on schedule or need to be eating differently.