Eating during the first 12 months of life is vital to every aspect of the development of your baby. The food your baby eats provides energy and nutrition to grow, and the act of eating itself helps your child learn many key skills they’ll need as life goes on.
While your baby is sitting in the high chair, they are learning a variety of motor skills and how to manipulate food with their gums and tongue.
As a parent, it’s important you take the time to learn as much as you can about how to feed your baby correctly. In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the key concepts at play when it comes to the feeding process.
You should know that as with all things baby-related, there is always an ongoing discussion about whether or not the most currently accepted best practices are ideal. Your job in this process is to decide which ones make the most sense for you and your baby.
Age Appropriate Portion Sizes
0-4 months: 8-12 feedings of breast milk or formula daily (2-4oz per feeding)
4-6 months: 4-6 feedings of breast milk or formula daily and 1-2 tablespoons of cereals
6-8 months: Continue to breastfeed on demand or provide about 24-32oz of iron-fortified formula daily.
- Grains: 2-4 Tablespoons
- Protein: 2-4 Tbsp.
- Fruit: 4-8 Tbsp. (1/4-1/2 cup)
- Vegetables: 4-8 Tbsp. (1/4-1/2 cup)
- Proteins, fruits, and vegetables at this time should be strained, pureed or mashed
8-12 months: Continue to breastfeed on demand or provide about 24oz of iron-fortified formula daily
- Grains: 2-4 ounces (1/4 -1/2 cup)
- Protein: 2-4 ounces (1/4 – ½ cup)
- Fruit: 4-6 ounces (1/2 to 3/4 cup)
- Vegetables: 4-6 ounces (1/2 to ¾ cup)
- Proteins, fruits, and vegetables should be finely chopped, diced or ground
When Should I Feed My Baby?
This is one of the most common questions new parents have about feeding, and it’s also the simplest – feed your baby whenever they’re hungry! For newborns who are still just taking milk/formula, it’s important to trust them and make sure they get a quick meal any time they show signs of hunger (we’ll cover those in just a second).
For most newborns, this will end up being about 8-12 feedings of breast milk per day (or about 6-10 servings of formula daily). It’s not uncommon for your infant to need at least one feeding during the night. Once your little one starts on solid foods, you’ll slowly transition to a more daytime schedule and begin to require less breast milk or formula.
Signs Your Baby is Hungry
Your baby will send you lots of signals that they are hungry. The easiest (and loudest) way to notice is when your baby becomes fussy and cries. However, this is often a late sign that your baby is hungry.
Crying can also be a way of signaling several different things as well, including needing to be changed, having gas or needing to be burped. When you’re trying to tell if your baby is specifically hungry, look for these early signs.
- Smacking of the lips
- Rooting reflex or making sucking motions with their mouth
- Reaching out for the breast/bottle
- Putting a hand in their mouth or sucking on their fingers
These are signs that your baby is currently feeling hungry and is ready to be fed.
Signs Your Baby is Full
This is another important thing to watch out for, especially as your baby progresses and moves to solid food. You’ll want to get to know their specific way of signaling fullness, so you know when to stop spooning out more food.
When you begin with breastfeeding or the bottle, it will likely take your baby 10-15 minutes to complete each feeding. Watch for when your baby:
- Starts to fall asleep
- Moves their face away from the breast/bottle
- Closes their mouth tightly
- Pushes food back towards you
As your baby’s motor and oral skills get stronger, they’ll be able to signal that they are full more obviously. Remember that one of the things your baby is learning during this stage of eating is how to react when they’ve had enough. Help your little one develop good self-control habits by allowing them to decide when they have had enough to eat.
When to Begin Purees or Solids
The transition from milk or formula to solid foods is a bit of a process. For most babies, it will begin around 4-6 months. Remember, though, that even during this transition, your baby will still receive most of their nutrition from milk or formula.
It won’t be until around one year that your little one will be ready to start receiving all of their nutrition from solid food.
Signs Your Baby is Ready for Solids
There is a lot to consider when deciding if it is the right time to begin your baby on solids. Below are a few signs to keep an eye out for that will show you you’re little one is ready for this step.
- Ability to make basic chewing motions
- Curiosity about what you’re eating
- They no longer have the tongue-thrust reflex that will push food out of their mouth
- Ability to sit in a high chair without assistance and can keep their head and neck upright
Each baby goes at their own pace in terms of being ready for solid foods, so it is essential to oversee your child. Many little ones aren’t ready for solids until 5 or 6 months. Don’t feel like your little one is behind; all children meet different milestones at different times. And that’s okay!
When your baby is ready to start eating, two common practices include baby-led weaning, and the second is the more traditional route of beginning with pureed foods, which will be covered here.
Before feeding your baby, it’s essential to make sure they are seated upright, and there are minimal distractions around including television and extraneous conversation during mealtime.
Give your baby one small spoonful of food at a time and make sure they have plenty of time to completely swallow (or spit out) before moving on. Even though we may eat quickly, little ones will take a bit longer.
By spooning out one bit of food at a time, you’ll allow your baby to begin to learn how to pace themselves and recognize when they are full.
One New Food at a Time
When it comes to this stage of eating, make sure to give your little one new foods consistently, but only give them one new food at a time. Using this system allows you to identify if your child has an intolerance or allergy to any new foods added to their diet.
If any new foods give your baby hives, flushed skin, or a rash on their body or around the mouth, it’s essential to take note of what food caused this reaction and to notify the pediatrician immediately.