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Feeding Your Baby

Nutrition during the first year of your baby's life is important for proper growth and development. Babies are also developing oral and motor skills. It is necessary to feed your infant based on his or her feeding skills and developmental age. Here are some suggestions to help you feed your baby.

How often should I feed my baby?

Babies know when they are hungry or full. Feed your baby every time he or she is hungry. Breast-fed infants should breast feed 8-12 times a day, approximately 10-15 minutes per breast at each feed. Formula-fed infants should be fed 6-10 times a day. As your baby starts eating solid foods, he or she will drink less. Slowly increase the amount of solid food you offer and decrease the amount of breast milk or formula.

How do I know when my baby is hungry or full?

Some general signs that your baby is hungry include:

  • Fussing or crying
  • Grabbing for or leaning toward breast or bottle
  • Pointing at spoon, food, or feeder's hand
  • Moving hands to mouth and sucking his or her own hands
Cleveland Clinic Children's Infographics

Some signs your baby has had enough to eat include:

  • Pulling away from bottle, spoon, or breast
  • Falling asleep
  • Changing position, shaking head, keeping mouth closed tightly, moving hands actively
  • Handing food back to the feeder

How do I know when my baby is ready for solid food?

American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life; however, if not exclusively breastfeeding, some babies may be ready to start solid foods between four and six months of life. However, every baby develops differently, so here are signs to look for to know your baby is developmentally ready:

  • Baby can sit upright with little or no support.
  • When lying on the tummy, baby pushes up on arms with straight elbows.
  • Baby is hungry for more nutrition after 8 to 10 breast feedings or 32 ounces of formula.
  • Baby shows interest in what you are eating.
  • Baby can move food from the front to the back of his or her mouth.

For children with special needs, speak with your child’s physician or therapists about seating/adaptive feeding. Please speak with your physician and/or dietitian if your baby was born early.

Guidelines for Feeding Your Baby:

  1. Start with ½ spoonful or less of each food. Increase the food gradually to 1-2 spoonsful, advancing slowly over several days. The goal for initial feeding is 4 ounces (1 small jar) of strained baby food per meal.
  2. Always introduce one new "single-ingredient" food at a time. Wait 3-5 days until introducing another new food to assess for possible allergic reactions, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or a rash. If any reaction occurs, stop feeding the new food and call your pediatrician.
  3. There is no evidence on which single-ingredient food to start with first. Many people start with infant cereal. If breastfeeding, consider starting with a vegetable, then advance to meat to provide nutrients that are lower in breast milk.
  4. If making your own baby food, it is recommended to use pureed peas, pureed corn, and sweet potatoes. Do not add salt, sugar, or other flavorings. It is recommended to avoid homemade spinach, beets, green beans, squash, and carrots since they contain nitrates which can cause anemia (low blood count). However, commercially prepared versions have been tested for nitrate content.
  5. Meats and vegetables contain more nutrients per serving than fruits or cereals.
  6. Four ounces of 100% pasteurized fruit juice can be started in a sippy cup once the baby turns 7 months old, with no more than 4 ounces of juice per day.
  7. When your baby is 9-12 months, slowly decrease mashed/baby foods and offer more finger foods. A child will typically self finger feed from 9-12 months and will not use a fork or spoon typically until after 12 months of age.
  8. Limit meal time to 15-20 minutes and reduce distractions such as watching TV.
  9. Most infants should eat 3-6 times a day (3 meals and 2-3 snacks).
  10. Good foods for your baby include foods rich in energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals, such as meat/poultry/fish and colorful fruits and vegetables.

Foods to avoid:

  • Spicy, salty, and sugary foods
  • Foods that may cause choking, like:
    • nuts, seeds, popcorn
    • chips, pretzels
    • raw fruits and vegetables, such as carrots and apples
    • raisins, whole grapes
    • hot dog pieces
    • sticky foods such as peanut butter or marshmallow
    • Do not give your baby honey.

Additional tips:

  • Don't warm baby's bottle or food in the microwave, as it can burn the baby's throat or mouth. Instead, warm bottles in a pan of warm water or under a stream of warm tap water. Shake the bottle after warming to be sure the milk or food is heated evenly.
  • Always feed your baby in an upright position with a spoon. For children with special needs, speak with your child’s physician or therapists about seating/adaptive feeding.
  • Don't let your baby fall asleep with a bottle. The milk collects in the baby's mouth and may cause tooth decay and choking, and can lead to ear infections.
  • You should not give your baby solid foods in a bottle. This may cause choking or overeating, and it may slow your baby's development of feeding skills.
  • The foods previously thought to cause food allergies if started too early (dairy products, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts) are now recommended when starting soft chopped table foods. Talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns. Be patient when offering new foods, as it may take 8-15 times to increase acceptance.
Sample Meal Plan (6-9 months)

Breakfast

4-6 tablespoons Stage 1 bananas
2-3 tablespoons iron-fortified baby cereal
4-6 ounces breast milk or iron-fortified formula

Mid-morning Snack

4-6 tablespoons Stage 1 applesauce

Lunch

1-3 tablespoons Stage 2 chicken
4-6 tablespoons Stage 1 peaches
4-6 ounces breast milk or iron-fortified formula

Mid-afternoon Snack

4-6 ounces breast milk or iron-fortified formula

Dinner

1-3 tablespoons Stage 2 beef
2-3 tablespoons Stage 1 green beans
4-6 ounces breast milk or iron-fortified formula
2-3 tablespoons iron-fortified baby cereal

Bedtime Snack

6-8 ounces breast milk or iron-fortified formula

Sample Meal Plan (9-12 months)

Breakfast

¼ cup smashed or diced banana
4 tablespoons iron-fortified baby cereal
4-6 ounces breast milk or iron-fortified formula

Mid-morning Snack

1 graham cracker
2-3 tablespoons applesauce

Lunch

1 ounce finely chopped beef
2-3 tablespoons pasta, chopped
2-4 tablespoons chopped cooked carrots
2-4 tablespoons chopped peaches
4-6 ounces breast milk or  iron-fortified formula

Mid-afternoon Snack

1/2 slice dry toast
2 tablespoons cottage cheese
4-6 ounces breast milk or iron-fortified formula

Dinner

1-2 tablespoons chopped chicken
2-4 tablespoons mashed potatoes
2-4 tablespoons green beans
4-6 ounces breast milk or iron-fortified formula

Bedtime Snack

3 tablespoons iron-fortified baby cereal
6-8 ounces breast milk or iron-fortified formula

For any additional questions, set up an appointment with a registered dietitian today.

References

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 10/24/2014…#9693