Making appropriate food choices for your baby during the first year of life is very important. More growth occurs during the first year than at any other time in your child’s life. It’s important to feed your baby a variety of healthy foods at the proper time. Starting good eating habits at this early stage will help set healthy eating patterns for life.
Recommended feeding guide for the first year
Don’t give solid foods unless your child’s healthcare provider advises you to do so. Solid foods should not be started before age 4 months because:
– Breast milk or formula provides your baby all the nutrients that are needed for growth.
– Your baby isn’t physically developed enough to eat solid food from a spoon.
– Feeding your baby solid food too early may lead to overfeeding and being overweight.
At 6 months of age, breastmilk continues to be a vital source of nutrition; but it’s not enough by itself. You need to now introduce your baby to solid food, in addition to breastmilk, to keep up with her growing needs.
Be sure you give your baby her first foods after she has breastfed, or between nursing sessions, so that your baby continues to breastfeed as much as possible.
When you start to feed your baby solid food, take extra care that she doesn’t become sick. As she crawls about and explores, germs can spread from her hands to her mouth. Protect your baby from getting sick by washing your and her hands with soap before preparing food and before every feeding.
Your baby’s first foods
When your baby is 6 months old, she is just learning to chew. Her first foods need to be soft so they’re very easy to swallow, such as porridge or well mashed fruits and vegetables. Did you know that when porridge is too watery, it doesn’t have as many nutrients? To make it more nutritious, cook it until it’s thick enough not to run off the spoon.
Feed your baby when you see her give signs that she’s hungry – such as putting her hands to her mouth. After washing hands, start by giving your baby just two to three spoonfuls of soft food, twice a day. At this age, her stomach is small so she can only eat small amounts at each meal.
The taste of a new food may surprise your baby. Give her time to get used to these new foods and flavours. Be patient and don’t force your baby to eat. Watch for signs that she is full and stop feeding her then.
As your baby grows, her stomach also grows and she can eat more food with each meal.
Feeding your baby: 6–8 months old
From 6–8 months old, feed your baby half a cup of soft food two to three times a day. Your baby can eat anything except honey, which she shouldn’t eat until she is a year old. You can start to add a healthy snack, like mashed fruit, between meals. As your baby gets increasing amounts of solid foods, she should continue to get the same amount of breastmilk.
Feeding your baby: 9–11 months old
From 9–11 months old, your baby can take half a cup of food three to four times a day, plus a healthy snack. Now you can start to chop up soft food into small pieces instead of mashing it. Your baby may even start to eat food herself with her fingers. Continue to breastfeed whenever your baby is hungry.
Each meal needs to be both easy for your baby to eat and packed with nutrition. Make every bite count.
Foods need to be rich in energy and nutrients. In addition to grains and potatoes, be sure your baby has vegetables and fruits, legumes and seeds, a little energy-rich oil or fat, and – especially – animal foods (dairy, eggs, meat, fish and poultry) every day. Eating a variety of foods every day gives your baby the best chance of getting all the nutrients he needs.
If your baby refuses a new food or spits it out, don’t force it. Try again a few days later. You can also try mixing it with another food that your baby likes or squeezing a little breastmilk on top.
Feeding non-breastfed babies
If you’re not breastfeeding your baby, she’ll need to eat more often. She’ll also need to rely on other foods, including milk products, to get all the nutrition her body needs.
– Start to give your baby solid foods at 6 months of age, just as a breastfed baby would need. Begin with two to three spoonfuls of soft and mashed food four times a day, which will give her the nutrients she needs without breastmilk.
– From 6–8 months old, she’ll need half a cup of soft food four times a day, plus a healthy snack.
– From 9–11 months old, she’ll need half a cup of food four to five times a day, plus two healthy snacks.
Feeding tips for your child
These are some things to consider when feeding your baby:
When starting solid foods, give your baby one new food at a time — not mixtures (like cereal and fruit or meat dinners). Give the new food for 3 to 5 days before adding another new food. This way you can tell what foods your baby may be allergic to or can’t tolerate.
Start with small amounts of new solid foods — a teaspoon at first and slowly increase to a tablespoon.
Start with dry infant rice cereal first, mixed as directed, followed by vegetables, fruits, and then meats.
Don’t use salt or sugar when making homemade infant foods. Canned foods may contain large amounts of salt and sugar and shouldn’t be used for baby food. Always wash and peel fruits and vegetables and remove seeds or pits. Take special care with fruits and vegetables that come into contact with the ground. They may contain botulism spores that cause food poisoning.
Infant cereals with iron should be given to your infant until your infant is age 18 months.
Cow’s milk shouldn’t be added to the diet until your baby is age 1. Cow’s milk doesn’t provide the proper nutrients for your baby.
The AAP recommends not giving fruit juices to infants younger than 1 year old. Only pasteurized, 100% fruit juices (without added sugar) may be given to older babies and children, but should be limited to 4 ounces a day. Dilute the juice with water and offer it in a cup with a meal.
Feed all food with a spoon. Your baby needs to learn to eat from a spoon. Don’t use an infant feeder. Only formula and water should go into the bottle.
Don’t give your child honey in any form for your child’s first year. It can cause infant botulism.
Don’t put your baby in bed with a bottle propped in his or her mouth. Propping a bottle has been linked to an increased risk for ear infections. Once your baby’s teeth are present, propping the bottle can also cause tooth decay. There is also a risk of choking.
Help your baby to give up the bottle by his or her first birthday.
Don’t make your child “clean the plate.” Forcing your child to eat all the food on his or her plate even when he or she isn’t hungry isn’t a good habit. It teaches your child to eat just because the food is there, not because he or she is hungry. Expect a smaller and pickier appetite as the baby’s growth rate slows around age 1.
Babies and young children shouldn’t eat hot dogs, nuts, seeds, round candies, popcorn, hard, raw fruits and vegetables, grapes, or peanut butter. These foods aren’t safe and may cause your child to choke. Many healthcare providers suggest these foods be saved until after your child is age 3 or 4. Always watch a young child while he or she is eating. Insist that the child sit down to eat or drink.
Healthy babies usually require little or no extra water, except in very hot weather. When solid food is first fed to your baby, extra water is often needed.
Don’t limit your baby’s food choices to the ones you like. Offering a wide variety of foods early will pave the way for good eating habits later.
Don’t restrict fat and cholesterol in the diets of very young children, unless advised by your child’s healthcare provider. Children need calories, fat, and cholesterol for the development of their brains and nervous systems, and for general growth.