Baby Feeding Schedules by Food Type and Age

Mother breastfeeding baby girl

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Parents, especially first-time ones, often look for specific rules about what to feed their baby and how much to give them at every stage of their first year of life.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits all diet for babies. Your baby might align with an average schedule of when to might start cereal, baby food, finger food, and table food. Or you might have a baby who wants to start a little later or go a little slower. These general guidelines can help, but it's more important to pay attention to your own baby's cues. Always ask your pediatrician if you have questions.

Breastfeeding

Newborns breastfeed about eight to 12 times a day, around the clock—every two to three hours. Once they get the hang of breastfeeding and are gain weight well, they may space out their feedings to just eight times a day.

The expected number of breastfeedings per day are:

  • 7 to 8 times a day by 3 to 4 months of age
  • 5 to 7 times a day by 5 to 6 months of age
  • 4 to 6 times a day between 7 and 12 months of age
  • 3 to 4 times a day after 12 months of age until the baby and breastfeeding mom are ready to wean

As well, a nursing baby may want to nurse more often during a growth spurt. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that "breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child." If a breastfeeding baby weans before 12 months old, then the baby should be given an iron-fortified baby formula.

Baby Formula

In the book Your Baby's First Year, the AAP says: "Most babies are satisfied with three to four ounces per feeding during the first month, and increase that amount by one ounce per month until reaching eight ounces." That means a two-month-old baby will probably be drinking about four to five ounces of baby formula at a time. Some babies never reach eight ounces, though, topping out at five to six ounces at a feeding.

The AAP provides another guideline about baby formula, suggesting that "on average, your baby should take in about two and a half ounces of formula a day for every pound of body weight." So for a two-month-old baby who weighs 12 pounds, that would be about 30 ounces a day.

The average baby drinks:

  • 4 to 6 bottles of formula a day until they are about 6 months old
  • 3 to 5 bottles of formula between 7 and 9 months of age
  • 3 to 4 bottles of formula between 10 and 12 months of age
  • 3 to 4 bottles of whole milk or a toddler formula once they are 12 months old

Cereal and Baby Food

When should you start cereal? Do you start vegetables or fruits next? How much food should babies be eating when they are six, seven, or nine months old?

Once you have decided that it is the right time to start cereal (when your baby is four to six months old; many infants are able to wait until they are six months old), mix about one teaspoon of cereal with four to five teaspoons of pumped breast milk or formula (or even water). Experts usually recommend iron-fortified rice cereal as the first food you give to your baby. At first, the cereal will be very thin. As your baby does well eating the cereal, add less liquid so that it is thicker. Always feed cereal and other solids with a spoon, not a bottle.

After starting with just one or two teaspoons at a time, your baby will likely move up to three or four tablespoons of cereal once or twice a day. Once your baby is tolerating rice cereal for a few weeks or months, you can then try oatmeal, barley, wheat, and then mixed cereal, in that order.

You can start other types of baby food once your baby isn't satisfied just eating cereal, for example when they are already eating three or four tablespoons of cereal once or twice a day and still seem hungry. Experts usually advise adding a vegetable to your baby's diet before you start fruits, just because your baby might prefer the sweeter taste of fruits if you start them first.

Try a mild-tasting vegetable, such as green beans, peas, squash or carrots. Like cereal, start with a few teaspoons and then work your way up to three or four tablespoons once or twice a day.

In general, most babies eat:

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons of cereal once a day, and 1 to 2 tablespoons of a vegetable and fruit 1 or 2 times a day, around the time they are 4 to 6 months old
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons of cereal once a day, 2 to 3 tablespoons of a vegetable and fruit twice a day, and 1 to 2 tablespoons of a meat and protein food once a day around the time they are 7 months old
  • 4 to 8 tablespoons of cereal once a day, 2 to 4 tablespoons of a vegetable and fruit twice a day, and 1 to 3 tablespoons of a meat and protein food twice a day around the time they are 8 to 12 months old

As babies gets older, they move through the classic baby food stages and steps, starting with pureed, single ingredient baby foods and gradually moving up to foods that have more texture.

Finger Foods and Table Foods

Unlike starting baby food, which parents often are excited about, many dread starting finger foods because they are worried about the choking hazard. By eight to nine months of age, babies can grasp food and get it to their mouths. They will likely enjoy feeding themselves and will be more successful if you serve the right foods in the right sizes.

Watch your baby carefully as you give him very small pieces of finger foods, avoiding choke foods, such as whole grapes, raisins, raw vegetables, and large chunks of cheese. Good finger foods include:

  • Toasted O-shaped cereal
  • Cereal puffs made for babies
  • Toasted bread crusts
  • Crackers
  • Zwieback toast
  • Cooked pasta
  • Slices of ripe peach, pear, or banana

Once your child has mastered eating finger foods, you might add rice and small bite-size cheese cubes. You can also usually introduce yogurt at this age.

By the end of his first year or the beginning of his second year, your baby will likely be eating the food that the rest of the family is eating.

Vitamins Your Baby Needs

Babies can get most of the vitamins they need from their food. They need:

  • Iron from a breast milk, iron-fortified baby formula and cereal, and other iron-rich foods
  • Fluoride from drinking fluoridated water (most brands of bottled water are not fluoridated)
  • Vitamin D from baby formula; exclusively breastfeeding babies will need a vitamin D supplement

Foods to Avoid During Baby's First Year

Just as important as knowing when to start each food is knowing which foods to avoid. Before your baby turns one year old, avoid these foods entirely:

  • Honey (botulism risk)
  • Egg whites (food allergy risk)
  • Homemade baby food made with beets, carrots, collard greens, spinach, and turnips (high nitrate levels)
  • Cow's milk (no iron and not tolerated as well as breast milk or baby formula)
  • Choking hazards
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Article Sources

  • American Academy of Pediatrics. Your Baby's First Year, 4th edition. New York: Bantam Books, 2015.

  • American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 2012;129(3):e827-41.