Don’t Use Food to Soothe Your Baby

By: Dr. Meg Meeker

As a parent I know the frustration that comes with trying everything to comfort your baby, so I understand why parents often become stressed when their baby cries; they will try any quick fix to soothe them, including rocking, changing diapers and feeding them.  I always tell parents that it’s important to realize that crying isn’t always a sign their baby is in distress. As adults we know it’s unhealthy to turn to food for comfort, so when parents use a bottle to soothe their baby that may be what they are subconsciously teaching their child.

Once a healthy infant reaches approximately seven pounds, they shouldn’t need to be fed more than every three hours. If your infant is a preemie or has other health issues, talk to your pediatrician about the best feeding approach for your baby. Feeding an infant when they are not actually hungry overrides a baby’s hunger cues, which will make it hard for the baby to feel full after a real meal.  These types of patterns often extend into the toddler and childhood years and beyond. When children are unable to “read” when they are full, it has the potential to start a pattern of overeating, which could lead to long-term weight issues.

It’s important for parents to pick-up on their baby’s cues in order to avoid over-feeding and over-eating. The best way to accomplish this is to gradually lengthen the time between meals, which allows infants to have a clearer sense of being full than if they are given “snacks.” When truly satisfied, your baby will be calmer and happier for the hours that follow the meal. And what’s more soothing than that?

Figuring out how to soothe your crying baby when hunger is not the cause can be very frustrating. Some of the other common reasons that a baby cries include: needing a diaper change, wanting sleep, comfort, a different temperature, teething, and needing more or less stimulation. These are very normal causes for your baby’s cries.