When I became pregnant with my first child, I was working at a WIC Clinic with women, infants and children. As a Registered Dietitian, I spent my days educating pregnant women and caregivers of infants and children on how to best nourish themselves and their children for the best possible health. Well, can I say that when I had my first daughter, Katelyn, that all went out of the window!! You imagine that everything will go all smoothly and sweet. Like you and your baby are a picture in a parenting magazine. Well guess what? The most predictable thing about parenting in general, is that is unpredictable!Breast milk or formula should be your baby’s main source of nutrition for at least 6 months of age. Some parents begin solids at 4-6 months, but always follow your pediatrician’s recommendations! This is just a guide of what health care providers recommend under the supervision of your child’s doctor.
Age 4 – 6 months: When your baby can sit up with support and hold his neck steady, he is usually ready for solid foods. Most people start with rice cereal because it is the grain least likely to cause allergies. Rice cereal should be blended with breast milk or infant formula, and fed to your baby with a small, soft-tipped spoon. At first, it will look like he is spitting out the cereal and that he doesn’t like it, BUT don’t quit. He is learning how to eat from a spoon, and within a couple of tries, he will be eating like a pro! You can gradually work up to a thicker cereal and consistency, which can include barley, wheat or oats. Make sure to continue to breastfeed or bottle feed your baby because the cereal is just a supplementation at this point. Every time you let your baby sample a new cereal or even food for that matter, wait at least three days before introducing another one. This way, you will know if your child has some kind of reaction, what food contributed to it.
Age 6 – 8 months: Your baby could start eating fruits and vegetables at around 6 months. Since they have a natural preference for sweet foods, many doctors recommend introducing the vegetables first. If you start with fruits, they may never want to eat or try the vegetables because they are not as sweet. If your baby spits out the vegetables at first, continue to give it try, and give him a chance to get used to it. Start with strained, pureed vegetables and fruits, and servings can increase from a few teaspoons to about 2 tablespoons, twice a day. After you feel your baby has tried a sufficient amount of vegetables, feel free to start with the fruit. My babies loved the fruit and never turned one down! Try to avoid the “dessert” baby food like cobblers and puddings because they contain extra sugar and fat that your baby doesn’t need. Now is okay to offer juice every so often too. Try not to overdo the juice in place of fruit, because it is higher in sugar and can spoil his appetite for breast milk or formula. It is also recommended to dilute the juice with ½ water, ½ juice so it is not too strong, and citric juices like orange juice are too acidic for most babies. Most parents start with apple, white grape, or pear juice.
Age 7 – 10 months: So far, your baby should have been eating mainly, mushy goods. When he is around 7 months old, he may begin to show interest in your plate and that is a sign he is ready for different consistencies. This is a good time to introduce some foods with some texture to them. Some ideas are small bites of toast, pasta, soft fruit (like a banana) and cooked chopped vegetables. Be careful with foods that are choking hazards like hot dogs and grapes. So by now, your baby should be drinking breast milk or formula, fruits and vegetables, and other soft foods like the ones listed above. Around 8 or 9 months of age, pureed meat can be introduced, but sometimes babies have an aversion to the texture, so it may need to be mixed with something sweet.
Age 10 – 12 months: As your baby nears 1 year old, he will begin to want to do everything “all by himself”! This is the time you will want to start transitioning his diet to one more like yours. For the 11th and 12th month of Katelyn’s life, she ate bananas and toast for every meal....every day....and she is now 20 years old and all fine and dandy. Emily wanted baby food. Like forever, like I was bribing her by putting baby food with table food at almost a year old to get her to eat table food. Good news! She's now 16 years old and NOT on baby food! :) So, don’t beat yourself up over your child’s choices or lack of. At 1 year old, your child can transition to whole milk or enriched soy milk and definitely should be drinking out of a cup. The longer your baby stays on a bottle after 1 year old, the more difficult it will be to wean him off of it. Also, full fat milk is recommended until your child’s 2nd birthday for brain development. So, to wrap it up, by 1 year of age, your child should be eating a diet that is similar to your own diet. He should try to have six servings of grains, two to three servings of fruits, two to three servings of vegetables, two servings of protein and three cups of milk.
Serving Sizes: 1 grain = ½ slice of bread, ¼ cup cereal, 2 crackers 1 fruit/vegetable = ¼ cup 1 protein = ¼ cup or 1 oz
So, after all of this overwhelming information, sit back and relax. Your baby will be fine as long as you offer him a variety of foods around the appropriate times of development. And, as mentioned before, please always follow your pediatrician’s recommendations. I have made a "cheat sheet" so you can have a guide to the ages and the foods to make it easier to follow! So, don't wait! Click the green button to get your free printable delivered to your inbox!