This is a long post, but I think it will answer lots of questions my patients’ moms have, and help them remember what I have discussed with them in the appointment, if I even had time
to review all this information. *
When to start feeding the baby real foods?
- 4-6 months. Most babies are ready and ravenous by 4 months
- The baby should have good control of the head and be able to sit with support.
- The baby should be about double birth weight.
What should I feed my baby?
- Always try one new food for 3-4 days before moving on to the next food, just so it is easier to tease out the cause if the baby has a reaction to the food.
- Start with cereal because it is cheap and easily obtained. For now, the baby is just learning what to do when a spoon approaches the mouth, so most of the food will end up on the baby’s face or on the floor, so why start with expensive real food? Try both rice and oatmeal cereals so you can have both options since rice is more constipating and oatmeal is not. Once you start more fruits and veggies, keep mixing in cereal because it has iron which helps with the baby’s brain development.
- When your baby is pretty good at feeding from the spoon, you can start with pureed fruits and vegetables. You can also mix these foods with cereal. When trying to decide what food to offer next, alternate between all the different colors of the rainbow. This ensures that you cover a wide variety of nutrients. After a few pureed fruits and vegetables, you can also introduce peanut butter, very fine mashed up scrambled eggs, yogurt, and pureed meats and fish.
- A word about yogurt. You don’t have to buy “baby” yogurt. I suggest why plain unsweetened yogurt and mixing 2/3 yogurt and 1/3 baby fruit and serving that. This saves money.
- At about 5-7 months, when your baby can sit alone and is good at trying to put objects in the mouth, then you can introduce puffs and yogurt melts. These snacks pretty much disintegrate upon contact with saliva which should be abundantly found in your baby’s mouth at this point, aka drool.
- Once the baby is good at putting puffs into the mouth, try chunkier foods, such as pieces of diced, steamed (so soft that they are mashable between your fingers/baby’s gums), safe (not a perfect circle, so carrots sliced lengthwise first, then chopped, so as not to block the baby’s circular airway if choked on) pieces of fruit and vegetables, such as zucchini, carrots, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, potatoes, apples, pears, peaches. You can also offer pieces of ripe avocado and bananas. At about 6-8 months, you can offer pieces of halved blueberries, quartered grapes (and I still halve the grapes for my 4yo so it’s less of a choking hazard), sliced strawberries. You can also offer pieces of french toast, bread, pancakes, waffles, fish, tender meats, tofu, overcooked (very soft) pasta, and pretty much anything else imaginable.
- At 6 months you can start offering water in a sippy cup.
- By 12 months, the baby should be eating mostly table foods, that is everything that you eat (which is low in sodium and sugar right?) , except maybe cut into smaller pieces.
- Between 12-15 months, the baby/toddler should be “trying”to use a fork and spoon
- No honey for babies until after 12 months of age.
- At first, don’t add any sugar or salt to the food. Spices are okay, such as cinnamon to apple and oatmeal mix, or cumin on the sweet potatoes. I still add as little sugar and salt to my cooking as possible, and it’s always possible to season with other flavors. For example, when I make a chicken broth for the baby, I season it with a dash of black pepper, and diced onions and celery. Once cooked and cooled, I toss the broth with the chicken thighs, along with the onions and celery into the blender and puree it for the baby. Research does show that Americans eat way too much salt and sugar in their diet, so use the measure of as little as possible for baby and everyone else in the family.
- NEVER JUICE, there is no nutritional value in juice, even if the label says “all natural” or “100% fruit juice”. Unless the child is older and already used to juice being allowed only on special occasions only (for my kids, it’s birthday parties and traveling).
How often and how much should I feed the baby?
- About three times a day, sitting in the high chair with the adults. Keep the screens, TVs off during this time to keep the baby focused on feeding and emotional/social cues from the family. This is a great time to bond and also expose the baby to language, talking about the colors of the food, counting the puffs and snacks, describing the food and how the baby looks (how did that zucchini get on your ear?!?!?)
- Offer the baby food first during the meal while the baby is still hungry, and then followed by formula or breastmilk.
- Offer about 1/2 to 1 ounce of cereal/puree at each meal. Then increase as the baby gets more capable and interested in eating more. Give the baby as much as they want until they purse their lips, unless the doctor directs you otherwise. I have never told a mom to limit how much healthy foods a baby eats. If you don’t need to read the label to know what’s in it, then the baby can eat as much as they want of that. Unhealthy stuff, yes, there are limits, if not nil.
- By about 5-7 months, you can give your baby 3 meals a day with formula or breastmilk and 2 snacks with water.
- The baby will continue to drink about the same amount of breastmilk or formula
What are some additional resources?
- What to Feed Your Baby by Tanya Altmann, MD
- Wholesome Baby Foods is a great website with recipes if you want to make your own baby food.
- Coming soon, some recipes of my own that I made for my kids
- Follow me on Pinterest (username is… wait for it… BetaMomma) as I pin ideas for picky eaters, screen-free activities, and other parenting hacks
- Feeding kids is messy. Be okay with letting the kids play/experiment with the food.
*These are general guidelines, not medical advice. Some kids may have special needs such as delayed development or food allergies. Please talk to your child’s pediatrician about any specific concerns.