The First Six Months
The only feeding your baby needs during the first six months of life is breast milk or formula. Breastfeeding is the preferred method of infant feeding.
Formula feeding is an acceptable alternative for the parent who cannot breastfeed, does not want to breastfeed, or weans from the breast before baby is one year old. Iron-fortified formulas are recommended in these cases.
Introduction of Solid Food (4-6 months)
Wait until your baby is at least four months old before you offer anything other than breast milk, iron- fortified formula, and plain water.
Your baby should be ready for solid foods when he/she can hold head up, can sit up with support, and does not push food out of mouth with tongue.
Giving solid food too early contributes to:
- Stomach upset
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Overweight babies
Offer small amounts of infant cereal at first (1 Tbsp. cereal + 2 Tbsp. breast milk or formula).
Dilute fruit juices with water (half and half) for your baby.
Things to Remember — Feed your baby solid food from a small spoon, not from a bottle or infant feeder. During the first year, a baby is learning about food and how to eat and needs practice at these skills. Your baby’s calories and nutrients are supplied primarily from breast milk or formula during this time.
Adding Fruits and Vegetables (6-7 months)
After your baby has been introduced to infant cereals, you will want to offer your strained or mashed fruits and vegetables. Again, start with small amounts (1 Tbsp.) and increase the amount gradually.
Thinks to Remember — Add only one new food at a time. Wait 2-4 days before trying a new food. This way if your baby has a food allergy, it is easier to tell which food is causing the problem. Allergic reactions may include skin rash, diarrhea, watering of the eyes and nose, and vomiting.
Introduce new foods when your baby is in a good mood. The likelihood of your baby accepting the food is greater at this time.
Put only milk or water in your baby’s bottle. Use a cup for juice; a spoon for cereal.
Adding Protein Foods (7-8 months)
The next group of foods to be added to your baby’s diet are the protein foods. Strained meats, tofu, dried beans (cooked and mashed), yogurt, cottage cheese, and egg yolk are in this category.
Start with teaspoon size servings and increase gradually to tbsp. size servings.
Things to Remember — Never force your baby to finish a bottle or food. He will eat the proper amount for his growth and development. Clues that your baby is full are when he falls asleep, acts disinterested, or becomes playful.
Adding Table Foods (8-12 months)
By the time your baby is 8 to 10 months old, he may be ready and interested in eating with the rest of the family. Start your baby on very soft table foods such as mashed potatoes, baked squash (mashed), and soft textured meats such as meatloaf. As your baby grows more teeth, the consistency of the foods you can offer will become more varied.
Things to Remember — Babies do not need desserts, soda pop, sweets, sugar, or salt in their food. Remove the food for your infant before adding these ingredients to the food for the rest of the family.
Avoid using crisp or hard foods that may cause your baby to choke such as nuts, seeds, raw carrots, popcorn, and chips.
Consult your baby’s doctor or health professional regarding the proper time to introduce fresh, pasteurized cow’s milk into your baby’s diet. Current recommendations from the Committee on Nutrition are that the intake of fresh whole cow’s milk after six months of age should be no more than three cups per day to prevent iron deficiency. Infant formula or breast milk are preferable to fresh cow’s milk during the first 6-12 months of life because excessive ingestion of fresh cow’s milk may contribute to iron deficiency by increasing gastrointestinal blood loss. If fresh, whole cow’s milk is started before baby is 12 months old, iron-fortified infant cereal should be given to provide enough iron for your baby.
Offer a wide variety of foods to your baby to encourage good eating habits.
Let your child practice feeding himself. He won’t be very good at first, but it is important to let him try so that muscle coordination and eating skills are developed. It is rewarding for your child to succeed at feeding himself.
Good food habits are learned early. As a parent, there is a lot you can do to help your child develop positive and healthy habits that will last a lifetime.