As a new parent, you might be wondering how much you should be feeding your baby in the first year of his or her life. I’ll provide some simple guidelines here, but be aware that everyone is different, so some children may be content with less than the guideline amounts, while other children might want a bit more.
While the guidelines will give suggestions about certain foods to introduce at certain times, you don’t need to feel compelled to follow these suggestions. There is no specific order in which you should introduce food to your baby. Just because cereal is typically the first food that’s introduced to a child — at least here in North America — if you want to start feeding your child mashed vegetables or fruit instead, that’s entirely up to you.
So let’s begin.
From Birth to 4 Months of Age
For this age group, the child must be limited to either breast milk or formula. If you are breast feeding your baby, there are a couple of hints to know that your child has had enough. The first is that your breasts will generally feel softer after nursing, and secondly, if your baby has had enough to eat, you will know because they seem relaxed and satisfied. If you are bottle feeding your baby, they should not be getting more than 32 ounces of formula per day. Once you have started adding solids to their diet as well, you will need to begin cutting back on the amount of formula that you feed them.
From 4 to 6 Months of Age
Around this time you want to start looking for signs that your child is ready for the addition of solid food to their diet. There are a variety of clues to watch out for, but it’s unlikely that your child will do every one of these things.
If your child can or has:
- Hold up their head.
- Sit up straight in a high chair.
- Mimic the chewing motion.
- Doubled their birth weight, and now weighs at least 13 pounds
- Has begun to show an interest in food.
- They’re able to close their mouth around the spoon.
- They can maneuver food around in their mouth — especially from front to back.
- They’re teething.
- They still seem hungry after their typical breast feeding or formula feeding.
If your child is exhibiting a selection of these traits, or has reached these milestones, you can begin adding the typical fortified cereals, or your choice of puréed vegetables or fruit to their breast milk or formula.
As far as amounts go, start small. You can add about 1 teaspoon of cereal, or your choice of puréed food to about 4 teaspoons of formula or breast milk. You can then begin increasing the amount to 1 tablespoon of food —their puréed fruit or cereal — again mixed with milk. As you continue doing this, gradually lessen the amount of milk added. If you find that your baby isn’t interested in what you’re offering them the first go around, don’t force the issue. Just try again in another few days.
6 To 8 Months of Age
At this age, there are no different signs to indicate their readiness to eat solid food than the ones that are already listed above.
While the signs are the same, the choices of solid foods that you can offer to them at this age have increased. If you choose to, you can continue to either breast feed or bottle feed. Instead of being limited to puréed fruit or vegetable, you can also offer them strained fruit or vegetables such as bananas, peaches, avocado, squash, or mushy, well cooked carrots. If you choose to, you can add meat to their diet, such as chicken, pork, or beef, but you must purée it. And well, you should not be introducing any cow’s milk to their diet until they are at least one year of age, but you can offer them an alternative unsweetened yogurt. Feel free to offer them a puréed legumes, such as chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, and so forth. Lastly, you can cereals that have been iron fortified, such as barley and oats.
In terms of amounts, start off with 1 teaspoon of fruit and then begin to gradually increase that amount to about a 1/3 of a cup in 2 or 3 feedings. Do the same for vegetables. For the cereal, you can give them anywhere between 3 and 9 tablespoons, spread over 2 or 3 feedings.
We’ve talked about food allergies in one of our other articles, so it’s good to note here that as you begin introducing new foods into your baby’s diet, it’s a good idea to do it one food at a time. If you leave sufficient time between each new food that you introduce, that gives you the opportunity to discover whether or not the child shows any symptoms of being allergic.
8 To 10 Months of Age
By the time they get to this stage you want to be aware of signs that will indicate that they are also ready for finger foods. So on top of the previously mentioned signs, you want to look out for your baby being able to use the pincer grasp, which is their ability to pick up things with their thumb and forefinger. As well they should be able to easily transfer things from one hand to the other. And two final things — they’ve started putting everything in their mouth, and they are also moving their jaws up and down in a chewing motion.
If your baby is now manifesting these signs, you can broaden their food choices. Along with the breast milk or formula that you may or may not still be giving them at this age, you can give them small amounts of cottage or pasteurized cheese. For their fruit and vegetable, which previously could only be puréed or strained can now be mashed. As far as finger foods go, you can offer them small pieces of banana, potato, well cooked spiral past, and teething crackers. They should also be getting small amounts of protein from things like eggs, puréed meat, boneless fish, and a variety of mashed beans with soft skin.
As far as amounts go, they vary slightly, with dairy being limited to 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup per day, or half an ounce of cheese. For fruit, vegetables, and iron fortified cereals, limit their daily intake to approximately 1/3 of a cup. Protein foods should be limited to anywhere between 1/8 of a cup to 1/4 of a cup. As mentioned earlier, introduce these new foods gradually in order to test for allergies.
10 to 12 Months of Age
At this point we’re again going add on to all of the previously mentioned signs that you’re on the lookout for. Now you want to watch for them being able to swallow their food a little easier. By this time they should have more teeth, and they should have stopped pushing food out of their mouth with their tongue. One last sign to watch out for is them trying to use a spoon.
The following foods can now be added to their diet. These include a little bit more cheese or yogurt, but still without cows milk. You can now start offering them combined foods — things like macaroni and cheese or casseroles. For the most part however, you can just continue feeding them what you began feeding them in the last stage.