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Feeding Guide for the First Year

Making appropriate food choices for your baby during the first year of life is very important. More growth occurs during the first year than at any other time in your child's life. It's important to feed your baby a variety of healthy foods at the proper time. Starting good eating habits at this early stage will help set healthy eating patterns for life.

Recommended feeding guide for the first year

Don't give solid foods unless your child's healthcare provider advises you to do so. Solid foods shouldn't be started before age 4 to 6 months because:

  • Breastmilk or formula gives your baby all the nutrients that are needed for growth.

  • Your baby isn't physically developed enough to eat solid food from a spoon.

  • Feeding your baby solid food too early may lead to overfeeding and being overweight.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about the first 6 months of life. In addition, they recommend that all infants, children, and teens take in enough vitamin D through supplements, formula, or cow's milk to prevent complications from deficiency of this vitamin. In November 2008, the AAP updated its recommendations for daily intake of vitamin D for healthy infants, children, and teens. It's now recommended that the minimum intake of vitamin D for these groups should be 400 IU per day, starting soon after birth. Your baby's healthcare provider can advise you on the correct type and amount of vitamin D supplement for your baby.

Guide for formula feeding (0 to 5 months)

Age

Amount of formula per feeding

Number of feedings per 24 hours

1 month

2 to 4 ounces

6 to 8 times

2 months

4 to 6 ounces

5 to 6 times

3 to 5 months

6 to 7 ounces

5 to 6 times

Feeding tips for your child

These are some things to think about when feeding your baby:

  • When starting solid foods, give your baby 1 new food at a time—not mixtures (like cereal and fruit or meat dinners). Give the new food for 3 to 5 days before adding another new food. This way you can tell what foods your baby may be allergic to or can't tolerate.

  • Start with small amounts of new solid foods. Try 1 teaspoon at first and slowly increase to 1 tablespoon.

  • You can choose which food to start first, such as iron-fortified infant cereal, fruits, or vegetables.

  • Don't use salt or sugar when making homemade infant foods. Canned foods may contain large amounts of salt and sugar and shouldn't be used for baby food. Always wash and peel fruits and vegetables and remove seeds or pits. Take special care with fruits and vegetables that come into contact with the ground. They may contain botulism spores that cause food poisoning.

  • Infant cereals with iron should be given to your infant until your infant is age 18 months.

  • Cow's milk shouldn't be added to the diet until your baby is age 1. Cow's milk doesn't provide the proper nutrients for your baby. In addition, infants' digestive tracts are not developed enough to fully digest cow's milk as completely or easily as breastmilk or formula.

  • The AAP recommends not giving fruit juices to infants younger than 1 year old.

  • Feed all food with a spoon. Your baby needs to learn to eat from a spoon. Don't use an infant feeder. Only breastmilk, formula, or water should go into the bottle.

  • Don't give your child honey in any form, including in foods, for your child's first year. It can cause infant botulism.

  • Don't put your baby in bed with a bottle propped in their mouth. Propping a bottle has been linked to an increased risk for ear infections. Once your baby starts getting teeth, propping the bottle can also cause tooth decay. There's also a risk of choking.

  • Transition your baby off the bottle by their first birthday.

  • Don't make your child "clean the plate." Forcing your child to eat all the food on his or her plate even when they're not hungry isn't a good habit. It teaches your child to eat just because the food is there, not because they're hungry. Expect a smaller and pickier appetite as the baby's growth rate slows around age 1.

  • Babies and young children shouldn't eat hot dogs, nuts, seeds, round candies, popcorn, hard, raw fruits and vegetables, grapes, or thick amounts of peanut butter (a thin layer of peanut butter spread on bread is okay). These foods aren't safe and may cause your child to choke. Many healthcare providers suggest these foods be saved until after your child is age 3 or 4. Always watch a young child while they're eating. Insist that the child sit down to eat or drink.

  • Healthy babies usually require little or no extra water, except in very hot weather. When solid food is first fed to your baby, extra water is often needed.

  • Don't limit your baby's food choices to the ones you like. Offering a wide variety of foods early will pave the way for good eating habits later.

  • Don't restrict fat and cholesterol in the diets of very young children, unless advised by your child's healthcare provider. Children need calories, fat, and cholesterol for the development of their brains and nervous systems, and for general growth.

  • Unlike previously thought, you don't need to wait to introduce eggs, dairy, soy, peanut products, or fish due to risk for food allergies. If your baby has severe eczema or a known egg allergy, testing for peanut allergy may be advised. Talk with your child's healthcare provider if you have questions about safely introducing any of these foods.

Feeding guide for the first year (4 to 8 months)

Item

4 to 6 months

7 months

8 months

Breastfeeding or formula

5 to 6 feedings per day or 28 to 32 ounces per day

4 to 5 feedings per day or 30 to 32 ounces per day

3 to 5 feedings per day or 30 to 32 ounces per day

Dry infant cereal with iron

3 to 5 tbsp. single grain iron fortified cereal mixed with formula or breastmilk

3 to 5 tbsp. single grain iron fortified cereal mixed with formula or breastmilk

5 to 8 tbsp. single grain cereal mixed with formula or breastmilk

Fruits

1 to 2 tbsp., plain, strained/1 to 2 times per day

2 to 3 tbsp., plain, strained/2 times per day

2 to 3 tbsp., strained or soft mashed/2 times per day

Vegetables

1 to 2 tbsp., plain, strained/1 to 2 times per day

2 to 3 tbsp., plain, strained/2 times per day

2 to 3 tbsp., strained, mashed, soft/2 times per day

Meats and protein foods

1 to 2 tbsp., strained/2 times per day

1 to 2 tbsp., strained/2 times per day

1 to 2 tbsp., lumpy/2 times per day

Snacks

Arrowroot cookies, toast, crackers

Arrowroot cookies, toast, crackers, plain yogurt

Arrowroot cookies, toast, crackers, plain yogurt, soft fruits

Development

Make first feedings very soupy and thicken slowly.

Start finger foods and cup.

Breastfeeding or formula intake decreases slightly; solid foods in diet increase.

Feeding guide for the first year (9 to 12 months)

Item

9 months

10 to 12 months

Breastfeeding or formula

3 to 5 feedings per day or 30 to 32 ounces per day

3 to 4 feedings per day or 24 to 30 ounces per day

Dry infant cereal with iron

5 to 8 tbsp. any variety mixed with formula or breastmilk

5 to 8 tbsp. any variety mixed with formula per day or breastmilk

Fruits

2 to 4 tbsp., strained or soft mashed/2 times per day

2 to 4 tbsp., mashed or strained, cooked/2 times per day

Vegetables

2 to 4 tbsp., mashed, soft, bite-sized pieces/2 times per day

2 to 4 tbsp., mashed, soft, bite-sized pieces/2 times per day

Meats and protein foods

2 to 3 tbsp. of tender, chopped/2 times per day

2 to 3 tbsp., finely chopped, table meats, fish without bones, mild cheese/2 times per day

Starches

1/4-1/2 cup mashed potatoes, macaroni, spaghetti, bread/2 times per day

1/4-1/2 cup mashed potatoes, macaroni, spaghetti, bread, dry breakfast cereals/2 times per day

Snacks

Arrowroot cookies, assorted finger foods, cookies, toast, crackers, plain yogurt, cooked green beans

Arrowroot cookies, assorted finger foods, cookies, toast, crackers, plain yogurt, cooked green beans, cottage cheese, ice cream, pudding, dry cereal

Development

Eating more table foods. Make sure diet has good variety.

Baby may change to table food. Baby will feed themself and use a spoon and cup.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brittany Poulson MDA RDN CD CDE
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
Online Medical Reviewer: Liora C Adler MD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2022
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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