Janet, it sounds like your baby is healthy, active, and sleeping well—these are all good signs. But doctors are increasingly concerned about preventing children from becoming overweight.
Since babies are born in different sizes and with different appetites, it’s difficult to say exactly how much your baby should eat. In general, though, I believe parents should follow their baby’s cues and trust their instincts—feed your baby when he shows you he’s hungry and stop feeding him when he shows you he’s full. If your baby is eating the right amount, he should be satisfied after his feedings, sleep well, and have some alert and active periods.
Here are a couple other ways to tell whether your baby is eating the right amount and growing on track:
- Bottle-fed babies typically drink about 2½ oz. of formula per pound of body weight. Since your baby weighs 15 pounds, he should drink approximately 37 oz. per day. If your baby drinks 6-7 oz. of formula every 2-3 hours during the day and sleeps through the night—about 5-6 feedings in all—this falls within the correct range.
- At every medical visit, the nurse or doctor should weigh and measure your baby and chart his growth on a growth chart. If your baby is eating the right amount, is healthy and growing normally, his weight and length will continue to follow his percentile curve on the chart. When I plotted your baby’s weight on a growth chart, he came out a little above the 75th percentile, which means he’s bigger than ¾ of 3-month-old babies, but still well within the normal range. If your baby was also born around the 75th percentile in weight, around 8½ pounds, then he’s growing along his normal growth curve. Ask the doctor to plot your baby’s length on the growth curve—if his length is around 25 inches now, also around the 75th percentile, then his weight is fine for his length and he’s not overweight. If, on the other hand, he’s a lot shorter, such as 22-23 inches or 5th-10th percentile, he might be a little overweight for his size. (If you want to see for yourself, you can download the growth charts at www.cdc.gov/growthcharts)
If, in fact, the growth charts show that your baby is becoming overweight and the doctors are concerned, work together to develop a plan to feed him enough but not too much. Here are a couple ideas:
- It’s best to wait until your baby is 4-6 months old to start baby cereal or other solid food. Starting too early can increase your baby’s chance of becoming overweight and developing abdominal discomfort and food allergies.
- Most 3-month-old babies get hungry every 3-4 hours. If your baby begins fussing when it hasn’t yet been three hours since his last feeding, his fussing might mean something else rather than hunger—he might be lonely, bored, wet, overstimulated, or tired. Try picking him up, changing him, playing, giving him a dummy, or putting him down for a nap instead of immediately feeding him. If those don’t calm him, then you know he’s truly hungry, so go ahead and feed him.
- During your baby’s calm awake periods, encourage him to be physically active by playing with him. Coo back and forth together and encourage him to wave his arms and kick his legs. Hold rattles and toys in front of your baby to encourage him to grab and shake them. Put your baby on his tummy on the carpet to start giving him practice pushing up his chest and rolling over. Take time with your baby’s bath and let him splash with his arms and legs. Make exercise a daily part of your child’s life, now and into the future.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.