How to Know When Baby is Hungry When Transitioning to Solids

As you’re introducing solid foods to your little one, you may find yourself with all sorts of questions: When they push the spoon away, does it mean that they’re full…or that they don’t like mashed peas and you have a picky eater on your hands? Will feeding a few extra bites keep hunger away until morning? Can that same subtle encouragement lead to obesity?

Fear not: That same terrific built-in system for gauging when they need food and when they’ve had enough is still at work in children during the transition to solid foods. If you let your child follow the cues of their natural appetite, your little one will eat what’s needed to fuel growth and development without overdoing it.

Signs That Your Baby Is Hungry

  • Opening hands and mouth. A hungry baby is an eager one. If you make an exaggerated expression with your eyes and mouth wide open as you bring a spoonful of food toward your baby, they’re especially likely to imitate you and eat willingly.

  • Reaching for a spoon. Not only does your baby want to do everything that you do—like master holding that spoon—but your little one knows from experience what’s in the spoon. And when your baby hungry, they want it right now.

  • Pointing to food. Gesturing is a key way your baby communicates before they’re able to say words.

  • Acting excited when food is served. Your baby associates food with the happy feeling of having hunger satisfied. When food appears and baby’s hungry, they may wave arms, kick legs, and smile at the sight of it.

  • Using words or gestures to communicate readiness to eat. By about 10 months, your baby may make sounds to express hunger—“ba ba!” for bottle, for example, or mmm sounds! They may point to their high-chair tray or mouth when seeing food. This action lets you know right where your little one wants it to go.

Signs that Your Baby Is Full

  • Closing mouth and refusing to open it. Whether the food is liquid or solid, if lips are clamped, it’s a sure sign that your baby isn’t interested in having more of it.

  • Turning away. A baby who isn’t self-feeding yet will turn away from an approaching spoon when full.

  • Slowing the pace of feeding. At the start of a meal, your hungry baby will polish off the small portions you provide and eagerly accept more. By the end of a meal, though, your little one may not finish what’s being served. They may dawdle more, and less food will actually make it into the mouth.

  • Pushing food away. When your child has had enough, they may ignore the food completely or start to play with it. If it winds up everywhere but in the mouth, this is a pretty reliable sign that they’ve eaten enough.

  • Shaking head. Older babies and toddlers may gesture emphatically to make their desires known, especially when their answer is “No!” It’s not always easy to know whether your child is expressing dislike of a particular food or if they’re just full. But if they show other signs of disinterest, and if they’re refusing what’s normally a favourite, chances are good that your little one has had enough and is ready to move on to the next activity.

While your little one’s appetite can vary from day to day, it’s best to stick to a general schedule for offering meals and snacks while introducing solid foods. If your baby picks at their food or mostly ignores a meal, don’t force them to eat— they’ll likely make up for it at the next meal or the next day.