What To Do When Your Baby Barely Eats A Meal

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Have you ever taken your time and efforts to prepare the perfect meal for your baby only for him/her to show absolutely no interest, cry, or drop everything on the floor? You get so excited for them to devour it, yet they want nothing to do with it? If you’ve ever been there, I’m right there with you. It happens, and as frustrating as it may be, it’s normal. There are so many factors that can affect how a baby eats at a certain time, so let’s talk about what to when your baby barely eats.

Baby Barely Eats A Meal? We offer babies so many meals a week; don't be discouraged is a few meals don't go well.
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What To Do When Baby Barely Eats A Meal

It’s so easy to feel discouraged when our babies don’t eat well. We immediately jump to blaming ourselves and assuming that we are doing something wrong. It can be tempting to try to force our little ones to eat a little more to make sure they eat “enough” but what exactly classifies as “enough?” Oftentimes, our version of “enough” is much more than what their bodies know is enough. So, what then should we do if our babies barely eat a meal?

  • Let them be! Babies are in tune with their bodies and know when they want to eat. With baby-led weaning, it is difficult to measure how much a baby eats. With purees, we can physically see an amount in a container, but with baby-led weaning, a good amount of food may end up other places. Seeing food all over the floor and highchair may make us feel that our babies didn’t eat a thing, but often times they consume more than we think! 
  • Don’t try to force-feed. Force-feeding can have many negative effects down the line. One benefit of baby-led weaning is that babies are in control of their food intake, so try to continue to offer that sense of independence. 
  • Don’t be discouraged! I know, this one is a hard one. It can be so discouraging when we prepare a meal that our baby barely eats, but even slightly tasting foods provides nutrients!
  • Try again at the next meal! Remember the division of responsibility: Our job as caregivers is to offer meals. It is the baby’s job to decide what and how much to eat.
  • Always remember, breastmilk/formula should always be a baby’s primary source of nutrition until age 1.
What to do when baby barely eats a meal?

Factors That Can Affect How A Baby Eats

There are so many factors that could affect how a baby eats at a particular time. Sometimes, being mindful of these factors helps put our minds at ease if our babies are not eating as much as we would like.

  • Lack of appetite – This one may seem obvious, but many times when a baby doesn’t eat, it is simply because they are just not hungry! A baby may have filled up with milk or other meals beforehand, so it is normal that they may not be hungry during a particular meal.
  • Tiredness – No one wants to eat when they’re sleepy! If baby is overtired, they will not have the energy to be able to eat.
  • Discomfort – Babies should be in a comfortable seated position while eating. Make sure that they are seated appropriately and that their seatbelts are comfortably tightened.
  • Overwhelmedness – There are so many things that can overwhelm and distract a baby while eating. Anything from having too much food on the table to there being too much noise in the background can be overstimulating for a baby. Try to make mealtimes a calm, relaxing experience.
  • Illness – Illnesses affect how we as adults eat, so the same goes for babies! It is normal for their appetites to decrease if they are battling an illness.
  • Time of day – It is common for a baby to eat more in the daytime and less as the day goes on. Even we, as adults, may not have the best appetites in the evenings if we eat larger meals during the day!

Signs That A Baby Is Done Eating

Naturally, we think babies are done eating when they clean their plates. Oftentimes, there are several other signs babies use to let us know that they are truly done.

  • Crying/grunting/whining
  • Throwing food on the floor
  • Squirming to get out of the highchair
  • Playing with food
  • Rubbing food into hair/face
  • Fussiness/slamming tray
  • Blowing raspberries
  • Zoning out/showing disinterest
  • Hand signs (clapping/hand movements)

What My Baby Ate In A Day

Below is a sample of what my baby ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on a particular day. 

What my baby ate in a day

You may be looking at the dinner pictures thinking that they look exactly the same. If you are thinking this, you’re right! My son probably only touched 3 grains of rice from the plate and barely ate a thing. He wanted nothing to do with the food during that meal and there are so many things that could have caused that, but I still counted that day as a win! He ate a pretty good breakfast, ate a few bites for lunch, and was happy! He drank enough milk, took great naps, and had a smile on his face throughout the day.

Babies can be so unpredictable. Some babies have great appetites all the time and others barely want anything to do with solids and that’s ok! Every baby has his/her own growth curve, so don’t stress if you feel like your baby is eating too little/too much compared to other babies. We just have to keep doing what we can, offering nutritious meals and letting our babies take the lead!

Until next time, Lily!

About Lily Payen

Hi, I’m Lily! The mama behind Feeding Tiny Bellies. I’m here to help you take some of the stress out of meal times for your little ones. My goal is to create simple recipes with baby in mind that can easily be adapted for the entire family.

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