The first year of a baby’s life is filled with exciting milestones, and one of the most significant transitions is introducing solid foods. As your little one grows and develops, their nutritional needs change, and it’s important to provide them with appropriate foods at each stage. In this age-by-age guide to feeding your baby, we’ll explore what and how much to feed your child during their first year of life.
What can I feed my baby?
Age: Birth to 4 Months – Laying the Foundation
During the first 4 to 6 months of your baby’s life, breast milk or formula is their primary source of nourishment. Their tiny digestive tract is still developing, making it crucial to refrain from introducing solid foods at this stage. Breastfeeding or bottle-feeding exclusively provides the essential nutrients your baby needs for healthy growth and development.
Age: 4 to 6 Months – Exploring New Flavors
Around 4 to 6 months, your baby will begin showing signs of readiness for solid foods. These signs include being able to hold their head up and sit upright in a highchair, significant weight gain (doubling birth weight), the ability to close their mouth around a spoon, and moving food from the front to the back of their mouth. Once these signs are present, you can start introducing solid foods.
At this stage, breast milk or formula remains the primary source of nutrition, but you can gradually introduce one-ingredient pureed foods. Start with small amounts of pureed vegetables like peas and squash, pureed fruits such as apples, bananas, and peaches, and pureed meats like chicken, pork, or beef. Additionally, include semi-liquid, iron-fortified cereal made with oats or barley and small amounts of unsweetened yogurt. Avoid cow’s milk until age 1.
When beginning solids, start with 1 to 2 teaspoons of a single-ingredient pureed food and gradually increase to 1 to 2 tablespoons. If incorporating cereal, mix it with breast milk or formula to achieve a suitable consistency.
Age: 6 to 8 Months – Expanding Palates and Textures
Between 6 and 8 months, your baby’s palate and chewing skills continue to develop. While breast milk or formula remains essential, you can introduce a wider range of foods and textures. Pureed or strained fruits like bananas, pears, applesauce, and peaches, as well as pureed or strained vegetables such as carrots, squash, and sweet potato, can be introduced.
You can also incorporate pureed or mashed meats, tofu, legumes like black beans and lentils, and small pieces of bread and crackers. Soft pasteurized cheese, cottage cheese, and unsweetened yogurt can be included too. Increase the quantities gradually, offering 2 to 3 tablespoons of fruit, vegetables, grains, and protein-rich foods.
Age: 8 to 12 Months – Growing Independence and Variety
As your baby reaches 8 to 12 months, they become more adept at self-feeding and have an increased interest in exploring a variety of foods. Breast milk or formula continues to provide essential nutrients, while soft finger foods and self-feeding skills are encouraged. Soft-cooked vegetables like carrots and potatoes, mashed or cubed fruits such as bananas and pears, and finger foods like O-shaped cereal and teething crackers can be introduced.
Protein-rich foods like small bits of meat, poultry, fish, tofu, and well-cooked beans, as well as iron-fortified cereal and other grains, can be added to their diet. At this stage, your baby may have three meals a day and start incorporating snacks. Breastfeeding or formula feeding should consist of 3 to 4 feedings, with recommended quantities of fruits, vegetables, grain products, and protein-rich foods.
Feeding Tips for a Successful Solid Feeding Journey
- Be patient: Your baby’s taste preferences and eating habits are still developing, so be patient if they initially reject certain foods. Offer them again in a few days or weeks.
- Introduce new foods gradually: To monitor any potential allergies or adverse reactions, introduce new foods one at a time. Wait for three to five days before introducing another new food, especially if your baby or family has a history of allergies.
- Seek doctor’s guidance: Before embarking on your baby’s solid feeding journey, consult with your child’s doctor to ensure you’re following appropriate guidelines and to address any concerns.
- Offer age-appropriate textures: As your baby grows, gradually introduce more textures and soft finger foods to enhance their oral motor skills and chewing abilities.
- Embrace family meals: By 8 months, it’s safe to serve your baby what the rest of the family is eating, provided it aligns with their nutritional needs and doesn’t contain added sugars. Ensure meals are prepared with appropriate modifications for your baby’s age.
Remember, every baby is unique, and they may progress through the stages of solid feeding at different rates. Follow your baby’s cues, trust your instincts, and enjoy this special time of introducing new flavors and textures to their palate.