Caroline Weeks, RDN, LD, consultant dietitian who works with Ready. Set. Food! shares a guide to baby's first foods which outlines tips and tricks for introducing solids and guiding your child through important developmental skills.
Remember when the realization that there truly is no training manual for parenting first set in?? Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all tutorial for feeding your baby either. Transitioning your baby off the bottle or breast to a diet of purely solid foods can be stressful and confusing for many parents and caregivers.
This guide outlines tips and tricks for navigating introducing solids while introducing important skills like open cup drinking. Starting at 6 months, or when your baby is developmentally ready, you can begin introducing them to 1 solid meal per day, eventually building up to 3 meals per day with a snack by their first birthday.
How much should my baby be eating?
When it comes to eating, remember that every child is different. There is no right or wrong way to feed your baby. As a registered dietitian I never like to speak in absolutes when it comes to calories, portion sizes, or number of meals per day for a baby. You should always base feedings off of your infant’s already established feeding cues and try to achieve as much day to day consistency with mealtime schedules as you are able to. Here is a helpful guide to help you get started.
6 months → 1 meal per day
At this step, feeding is more so an exploratory process, in addition to the critical window of time to introduce allergens. With Ready. Set. Food!’s early allergen introduction system, you may have already started this process via bottle feeds, and the good news is, you can continue via bottle feeds or Organic Oatmeal. Most likely your baby’s overall appetite will not change too much with the addition of this one meal, and number of bottle or breast feedings per day won’t vary.
7-8 months → 1-2 meals per day
At this stage, your baby should be plodding along with slow and steady progress. Developmentally you might not notice many drastic changes other than development of a pincer grasp. This means baby will begin to try to pick pieces of food up between pointer finger and thumb. Encourage this fine motor skill by offering soft, mashable foods cut into smaller pieces.
9-11 months → 2-3 meals per day
At these stages, solid food is slowly becoming a larger part of your child’s daily diet.As they begin to progress with different food groups like proteins and fats, the level of satiety achieved from solids may be greater. Here you can begin to replace certain breast or bottle feedings with solid feedings and begin to introduce the open cup more frequently with meals.
12 months → 3 meals per day with snack
By one year of age, your baby’s meals may start to look similar to what you’re eating! Bottle weaning is recommended by 12 months, however, note breastfeeding may continue as long as mutually desired by mother and child for 2 years or beyond. If this is a part of your goals and would like to continue, please feel empowered to do so. For the caregivers who would like to end their breastfeeding or pumping journey, note this is a perfectly valid choice as well.
What is a normal meal schedule for baby?
Here are some examples of meal schedules for your growing eater, but please keep in mind that every child and family is different so meals and schedules may not be consistent at first. But below will provide a good rule of thumb for how your day might look as you start to introduce solids in the first year.
Sample Meal Schedule for a 10 Month Old:
7:00 am – Wake up + Breakfast of solids
9:00 am – Bottle feeding or breastfeeding + nap
12:00 pm – Lunch of solids and open cup practice*
2:00 pm – Bottle feeding or breastfeeding, if desired + nap
5:00 pm – Dinner of solids and open cup practice*
6:30 pm – Bottle or breastfeeding
7:00 pm – Bedtime
Sample Meal Schedule for a 12 Month Old:
7:00 am – Wake up + breakfast of solids
9:00 am – Snack if desired
12:00 pm – Lunch of solids and open cup practice*
1:30 pm – Bottle if desired + nap
5:00 pm – Dinner of solids and open cup practice with introduction of cow’s milk
6:30 pm – Bottle or breastfeeding, if desired
7:00 pm – Bedtime
*Learn more on open cup practice below.
Sample Menu for Baby and Toddler
- Breakfast: Veggie omelet with diced strawberries or Ready. Set. Food! Organic Baby Oatmeal
- Lunch: Whole grain pasta with meat sauce or rice and bean mash
- Dinner: Pan seared salmon with soft broccoli spears or pot roast with oven roasted kabocha squash
Ready to get started? Learn more on what you’ll need to get started for making your own baby food.
Tips for Weaning from Breastfeeding and Bottlefeeding
Breastmilk and bottle feeds by 12 months may still be occurring either at morning or night and are usually providing comfort rather than nutrition. The weaning process is one that takes time and patience—not all kids will follow a linear path and that’s okay. When your baby is ready to wean completely, ensure the last bottle to take away is done either early morning or night.
Tips for making this transition easier can be:
- Introducing a comforting transition item like a stuffy or toy
- Offering something else for your baby to gum and mouth like a teething toy
- Providing healthy distractions including change of physical environment or a schedule change
- Getting rid of bottles “cold turkey” from the household or teaching the concept of the bottle “being broken” to your child as a last resort
When Can I Transition to Cow’s Milk or Milk Alternative?
Current American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommend the introduction and transition of cow’s milk only for children ages 1 and up. To make the transition from tasty breastmilk or formula to this new milk as smooth as possible the following tips can be helpful:
- Try introducing the new milk as a gradient. For example, fill a cup one quarter full of the new milk with the remainder being the beverage they are most used to. Keep this up for several days and then transition to half and half. Continue this process until you make the complete switch!
- Ensure your child isn’t falling short on essential nutrients for healthy growth and development like calcium and protein. These are not only found in cow’s milk but also in other solid food options like soy, leafy green vegetables, and fortified milk alternatives. For picky eaters, cheese and other dairy products like yogurt can serve as a way to get your child’s taste buds associated with this new food.
- When in doubt, keep offering! Sometimes it’s not a matter of what you change, but rather the number of exposures to something new that you introduce your child to. Ensure that they have autonomy in the process. This could look like your child choosing what color cup they want that day or holding the cup on their own.
What Are the Benefits of Introducing an Open Cup?
Did you know that you can actually start offering liquids in an open cup as soon as your baby is developmentally ready to begin solids? There are many benefits to introducing liquids via an open cup, including proper development of dentition and teeth alignment, maturity of swallow, and overall easier transition to cow’s milk or milk alternative in toddlerhood.
Make sure that you use a cup that is size appropriate for your child. Certain companies make developmentally appropriate products, but household items like a medicine cup or small Ball jar can work as well. Note that water can be introduced to your baby as early as 6 months, but ideally no more than 1-2 oz of this should be offered at a time. Your baby’s stomach is still very small and we want the majority of their nutrition to come from either breastmilk or formula for proper growth and weight gain.
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