The latest question for our Ask the Expert panel comes from a mum who’s concerned about the amount her baby son is eating. She wants to know whether she’s under- or over-feeding him and what tips there are to help her become more aware of portion sizes and frequency of meals. Paediatric Dietician Jo Rayner is on hand with this advice.
I’m really confused about how much my 9 month-old son should be eating. He seems to be quite erratic about what he eats. Sometimes he eats a lot and other times he just doesn’t seem interested. He seems to be a normal weight but I am worried about under-feeding or feeding too much. What are the correct portion sizes for a 9 month-old and how often should he be eating?
What a great question!
NHS Choices advises that by 9 months a baby should be on, or moving towards, three meals a day. There should be a mixture of soft finger food and mashed/chopped foods. The diet should have a variety of foods including:
Fruit and vegetables;
Starchy foods: Bread, rice pasta, potatoes;
Protein foods: meat, fish, eggs, beans and pulses;
Milk – either as breast milk, formula milk and also including dairy products.
At each meal you should try to balance the portion of starchy food, protein and vegetables in roughly equal thirds. This is easy when you are offering home-cooked foods, and it is important to look for the same balance when using jar foods. Those containing only fruit or only vegetables would not be suitable at this age.
You should always be guided by your baby’s appetite. If they are giving you clear signs like clamping their mouth shut, turning away or spitting food back out, then you should stop even if there’s just one more spoonful left! As an adult you wouldn’t like to be asked to finish your plate by the waiter in a restaurant if you were full.
Most babies eat to their appetite, but some will overeat, especially if they have been overfed for a little while. This is where as a parent you need to put the brakes on and say ‘No’.
Food needs to be balanced with milk. At this age you would be aiming for 600mls of breast or formula milk daily. This provides about 400kcal. An average 9 month-old infant needs 650kcal for boys and 600kcal for girls per day. So that’s only an extra 200 – 250kcal needed from foods each day.
A typical 200g savoury jar for 7 months+ contains 120 – 150 kcals. Pouches tend to be smaller, around 130g, and often contain around 80kcal per pack. So, for example, two full jars plus breakfast/finger food, snacks and dessert will probably be too much, but this is based on the average.
The best measure to see if you are getting it right is your baby’s growth. If they are growing well, following their Centiles in the Health record book, then you are doing a good job.
If your baby is gaining too much weight, or not enough, then speak to your health visitor for further advice.
Jo Rayner is a highly-experienced registered Paediatric Dietitian and Consultant Nutritionist. She is a member of the British Dietetic Association and her practice is regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council.
Jo helps children and families achieve optimal health through practical, individual advice based on research, evidence and experience and believes good nutrition can be achieved by working together regardless of any medical condition, allergy or lifestyle preference.
Read more about Jo
Visit Jo’s website Kidsdiet.co.uk