Should you worry about baby fat? Not so much. While some recent studies have found a link between fattening up too fast during infancy and childhood obesity, your number one job as a mom is to help your baby gain weight. Indeed, cutting calories during the first year could interfere with both your baby's physical growth and her brain development. Instead, just keep these guidelines in mind so your little cherub develops healthy eating habits:
Know the signs of satiety. A baby has had enough to eat when she closes her eyes, spits out the nipple, or pulls away, says John Worobey, Ph.D., chairman of the department of nutritional sciences at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, NJ. Don't insist that she continue to nurse or finish her bottle. (Of course, if your baby shows no interest in eating for two or three feedings in a row, give your doc a call.)
Avoid using food to soothe. You'll need to feed a newborn often and on demand. But an older baby who fusses between meals or not long after he has emptied his mom's breasts or finished off a bottle doesn't always need more food to feel better. First try offering him a pacifier, or help him relax with rocking, singing, or shushing, suggests Jennifer Helmcamp, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Texas A&M Health Science Center at Round Rock.
Put solids in perspective. During the first year, a child's primary source of calories and nutrition should be breast milk or formula, says Dr. Helmcamp. Even though babies typically start solids around 6 months, the main function of eating food at this point is to get a kid used to having it in her mouth and to provide her with a chance to "practice" eating. She doesn't need to polish off jar after jar every time she's plopped in the high chair.
Keep some barometers in mind. Babies should double their birth weight by about 4 months, and triple it by their first birthday. Talk to your pediatrician if your baby is exceeding these guidelines.