Springdale Mason Pediatrics

Overweight Toddler - Preventing Over-Feeding and Over-Eating


  • Currently 10% of 2 to 5 year old children in the U.S. are overweight.
  • The main cause is over-eating.
  • Overeating means eating more calories daily than are needed for normal growth and activity.
  • Overeating is mainly a bad habit. It's learned during the early years of life.
  • It starts with over-feeding.

Call or Return If

  • You are concerned about your child's weight
  • You are not sure if your child is overweight
  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • You have other questions or concerns

About This Topic

Healthy Eating Goal

  • We want children to eat only when they are hungry.
  • They should stop when they are full.
  • It is far easier to teach healthy eating habits early.
  • It becomes harder when a child starts to show signs of becoming overweight.
  • The following are some tips for preventing excessive weight gain in young children.

After Care Advice

Try to Breast-feed:
  • Breast-feeding allows babies to control the amount of milk they drink.
  • They stop when they are full.
  • Overfeeding by breast is unusual.
Teach to Eat Only for Hunger:
  • Help your child recognize hunger and only to eat when he's hungry.
  • Teach him not to eat when he's bored, lonely, stressed, watching videos, etc.
  • Don't deny your child food, however, if she is hungry. But, make snacks small and nutritious. Parents have control over what they serve.
Avoid Grazing:
  • Grazing is eating frequently for reasons other than hunger. It means feeding while the stomach is still full.
  • It takes 2 hours for the stomach to empty.
Avoid Grazing:
  • Grazing is eating at frequent intervals instead of waiting until he is hungry.
  • Children who rarely experience normal hunger become very upset when they have to wait.
Stretch Feeding Intervals:
  • If breast-feeding, gradually advance the nursing interval. Extend to 2 hours or longer by 1 month of age. Go to 3 hours by 2 months of age.
  • If bottle-feeding, try to feed your infant every 2 hours or longer at birth. Go to 3 hours or longer by 2 6 months of age.
  • Change to 3 meals a day plus 2 small snacks by 6 months of age.
Teach to Stop Eating When Full:
  • Try to teach your child to stop eating when she feels full.
  • Teach this from the beginning.
  • Overfeeding teaches a child to overeat when he is older.
  • Don't insist that your child clean his plate.
Feed Slowly:
  • Feed your baby slowly, rather than rapidly.
  • Don't try to hurry your baby's pace of eating.
  • It takes 15 to 20 minutes of eating for most babies to feel full.
Avoid Tote Bottles:
  • Don't allow your child to keep a bottle or sippy cup with her all the time.
  • Children who are allowed to carry a bottle around with them learn to use food for comforting.
  • It also damages the teeth.
Don't Make Your Baby Finish Every Bottle:
  • After she signals she is full, don't encourage her to drink more.
  • Signals to watch for are turning her head or not opening her mouth.
Don't Use Food as a Distraction or Reward:
  • Don't give your child food as a way to keep him occupied. Instead, give him something to play with when you need some free time.
  • Avoid giving children bottles, sippy cups, or other snacks while they are in car seats or strollers.
  • Use praise and physical affection instead of food as a reward for good behavior.
Avoid Comfort Feedings:
  • Don't feed your baby every time he cries.
  • Most crying babies want to be held and cuddled.
  • Teach your infant to use human contact (rather than food) to relieve discomfort.
  • Also, don't assume a sucking baby is hungry. Your baby may just want a pacifier or help with finding her thumb.
Delay Solid Foods Until 4 to 6 Months:
  • Avoid giving solid food to your baby until he is at least 4 months old. (6 months for breastfed babies).
  • Your child doesn't need to finish the whole jar of baby food.
Discontinue Breast and Bottle Feeding by 12 Months of Age:
  • A study found that delayed weaning was associated with more obesity.
  • The main reason is its association with comfort feedings.

Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Copyright 2000-2021 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC
Disclaimer: This health information is for educational purposes only. You the reader assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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