Feeding Through Your Child’s First Year

Mother spoon feeding her happy baby.

A Strong Start

Did you know that more growth occurs during a child’s first year than any other time over their lifespan? How incredible! This is why it’s so important to feed your child the right foods at the proper time. Encouraging good eating habits will set your child on a healthy path.  

The First 6 Months 

Exclusive breast feeding is the best option for your baby’s first 4 to 6 months. A mother’s breast milk has all the nutrition a baby needs for the first phase of life. If breast feeding does not fit your family, don’t worry; infant formulas are designed to mimic the nutrients in mother’s milk. 

A baby should take 2 to 6 fluid ounce bottles for 8 to 12 feeds per day up to 4 months of age. At 4 to 6 months of age, feeds increase to 4 to 6 fluid ounce bottles, while frequency of feeds decreases to 4 to 6 feeds per day.  

At this time, your child is not yet physically developed enough to eat solid foods. You may begin offering soft foods, but no earlier than 4 months.  

6 to 8 Months Old 

Breast milk or infant formula is still the primary source of nutrition during this phase. Volume of feeds increase to 6 to 8 fluid ounce bottles, with feeds occurring 3 to 5 times daily.  

Complimentary foods may be introduced if your baby is showing signs of readiness, like:

  • head and neck control
  • trunk strength
  • sitting upright with little support
  • showing signs of interest in solid foods like opening the mouth or trying to grab adult foods

Start with introducing infant cereal and strained fruit and vegetables (Stage 1 foods) by feeding foods with a spoon. Once these are accepted and tolerated, advance to Stage 2 or 3 foods like fruits and vegetables mixed with meat.

At this point in development, your child should show signs of tracking food with their eyes, transferring food between hands or grasping at food with all fingers. They may be able to drink from a cup with help or hold their own spoon with good grasp reflex.  

Appropriate Foods and Servings Include: 

Breast Milk or Formula: Feeds via bottle or latching to the breast 3 to 5 times daily, 6 to 8 ounces per feed. 

Grains: 1 to 2 ounces per day, iron-fortified baby cereal, low-sodium crackers. 

Fruits and Vegetables: 2 to 4 ounces per day, plain cooked and mashed or pureed. 

Proteins: 1 to 2 ounces per day, plain cooked, pureed, or mashed meats or beans.

Other Fluids: Introduce water in an open cup, sippy cup or transitional cup. 

8 to 12 Months Old 

Your child is now ready for a greater variety of foods from all food groups. Try a new food at least 8 times to promote acceptance of different flavors and textures. Your child may be able to hold a bottle without help, drink from a cup without spilling and coordinate hand-to-mouth movements. You may present soft foods in chunks for finger feeding. Be sure all food pieces are small enough to avoid choking. As always, monitor for safety.

Breast Milk or Formula: Feeds via bottle or latching to the breast 3 to 4 times daily, 7 to 8 ounces per feed.

Grains: 2 to 4 ounces per day. Examples include:

  • iron-fortified baby cereal
  • low-sodium crackers
  • low-sugar cereal, pasta, rice, bread, tortillas, plain oats, pancakes, waffles, etc.

Fruits and Vegetables: 4 to 6 ounces per day. Examples include fruits or cooked vegetables that are plain; cooked, mashed, pureed or cut into small pieces.

Proteins: 2 to 4 ounces per day. Examples include:

  • cooked egg
  • mashed beans
  • peanut-containing products if tolerated
  • cooked meat (cut or ground)
  • For 10 to 12 months, include whole-milk yogurt, cottage cheese or other cheeses

Other Fluids: 4 to 8 fluid ounces of water provided by open cup, sippy cup or transitional cup.

Additional Tips to Feeding Your Infant: 

  • Introduce new food items one at a time. This will help identify adverse reactions if they occur.  
  • Introduce the common food allergens one at a time while monitoring your child. These include cow’s milk, soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and seeds, wheat, fish, shellfish and sesame. For those at higher risk of allergy, introduction of allergen foods is recommended at a pediatrician or allergy physician’s office rather than total avoidance.

Foods Not Recommended: 

  • Cow’s milk should not replace breast milk or infant formula until your child is 1 year old. Cow’s milk does not provide appropriate nutrition during infancy
  • Avoid foods that can cause choking like:
    • hot dogs
    • nuts
    • nut butters
    • food with bones
    • tough meats
    • seeds
    • raisins
    • raw vegetables
    • round candies
    • popcorn
    • grapes
    • any other choking hazard

Ensure your child’s food is cut to the proper size and always supervise mealtimes.

  • Avoid fruit juice or other sweetened beverages for the first year of life, unless medically directed
  • Avoid honey before 12 months of life
  • Avoid foods with added sugar or salt

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