Here are some general guidelines about feeding your baby, what ages you can try to introduce new foods to your little one’s diet, and what food-related developmental skills you can expect at various ages. For a user-friendly chart version, please visit Dr. Sear’s Feeding at a Glace.
0-6 Months: Breast milk and/or iron-fortified formula. (Note that all efforts should be made to breastfeed, with formula being second best.)
Developmental skills: Your baby’s mouth is designed to suck, not chew yet. She has a “tongue-thrust reflex” that pushes out solid foods.
6 Months: Strained, pureed starter foods. Try bananas, pears, rice cereal, or unsweetened applesauce. Some suggest starting with more bland-tasting veges so that your baby doesn’t develop an early sweet tooth.
Developmental skills: Baby can now sit up in a chair. Tongue-thrust and gag reflexes lessen, so she is now able to accepts solids. She may also begins teething!
7-9 Months: You can now begin finger foods such as teething biscuits, cheerios and small pieces of soft, cooked foods. Add additional types of pureed and mashed foods. Baby may also start drink from a cup.
Developmental skills: You may notice your baby begins to reach for foods and utensils. She is now able to hold a bottle or sippy cup, and begins trying to pick up small food morsels with her thumb-and-forefinger.
Beware of choking hazards, as she will taste just about everything she can get her hands on! She’s really “acting like a baby” now, and enjoys banging, dropping, and flinging things.
9-12 Months: Baby is ready to try foods with a lumpier consistency. Make sure food is cut into small enough piece so she can’t choke on them. New foods to introduce can be lamb, veal, tofu, poultry, noodles, bagel, beans, rice cakes, peas, egg yolk, yams, cheese, oatmeal, and yogurt.
Developmental skills: Your baby’s self-feeding skills are improving, although she still loves to make a mess with her food. Try to let her feed herself even if she spills much of her food (or tries to smear it into her hair!); it’s good for her development!
12-18 Months: Let your baby participates in family meals. She can eat almost any foods the rest of you eat. See how she likes papaya, cottage cheese, apricots, grapefruit, whole eggs, grape halves, beef, strawberries, tomatoes, fish (salmon, tuna), pasta, crackers, broccoli, cereal, spinach, honey, cauliflower, pancakes, melon, muffins, mango, kiwi.
Developmental skills: Baby’s “Do it myself” desire intensifies, but luckily she can hold her spoon better and spill less when eating and drinking. It’s still normal if some of the food ends up on her lap, floor, or hair. If baby has begun walking, you may have a hard time getting her to sit still and eat. She may prefer to stop by and pick off of your plate now and then.
18-24 Months: You toddler starts the grazing stage, often earning her the title of “picky eater.” Try tempting her with various foods to see what she likes. Some options include sandwiches, stews, smoothies, shakes, pate, dips, toppings, spreads, soups. You can also try to make food fun by creating
fun-shaped snacks, such as avocado boats, cooked carrot wheels, cheese blocks, broccoli trees, o-shaped cereals, toast sticks, and cookie-cutter cheese melts.
Developmental skills: Molars appear, so toddler begins rotary chewing. She can mostly spoon-feeds herself without too much spilling. She may be able to say things like “more” or “all done” or signal those meanings. However, you’ll probably need to be more persistent or creative in order to keep her at mealtime. Her eating habits may be erratic, so focus on small meals or snacks throughout the day as opposed to three set mealtimes.
Source: Dr. Sears
Note: May parents are concerned that their children get “enough” milk and dairy products, mainly because of the calcium. However, due to the increase in sensitivity to cow’s milk, you may NOT want to include too much dairy in your kids’ diets. In fact, milk may not even be the best source of calcium after all. Other foods to try are calcium-fortified orange juice, calcium-enriched cereals or calcium-enriched soy milk, sesame seeds and sesame butter (tahini), broccoli, collards, spinach, baked beans, and supplements.
Feature image from Bella Baby Food organic, frozen baby food.