Children who eat too much love to eat and cannot turn off their hunger, even if they’ve already eaten a full meal. There are possible sources of hunger: the hunger of the mouth, hunger of the stomach and the hunger of the heart.

Three types of hunger

  • Hunger of the mouth: food tastes so delicious that the child will continue to eat it until there is nothing left.
  • Hunger of the stomach: the child never feels full.
  • Hunger of the heart: the child uses food to soothe him or herself.

Some tips for avoiding feeding problems

  • Serve small portions and continue feeding small portions until the child recognizes fullness.
  • Do not keep sweets or snacks out, as these are temptations for the child.
  • Use the time out method to teach the child to self-soothe.
  • Do not allow the child to eat during movies or television shows.

These guidelines only work when both parents participate, even though that means possibly changing their own eating patterns too.

For even more tips on feeding children and all about Dr. Chatoor’s research on feeding problems, read her book, When Your Child Won’t Eat or Eats Too Much, online.


Irene Chatoor Irene Chatoor, MD, is the director of the Infant and Toddler Mental Health Program at Children’s National. She is a world-renowned specialist in infant and toddler feeding disorders and developed the classifications for different types an treatments of feeding disorders in children.

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Posts from Irene Chatoor, MD

1 reply
  1. Nora says:

    My nephew was never taught delayed gratification. He was also never taught to share. Now, as an adult, he is overweight and he has no self-control. He eats multiple pizzas, whole pans of brownies, and if there are trays of Christmas cookies for the family the night before, he will devour them all so that no one else will get any. What might have been “cute” and funny as a child is just plain greedy and selfish as an adult. My sister brags about how much he eats. Children need to be taught self-control, delayed gratification, and how to share.


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