Infant Feeding Guidelines

Father Holding Baby Drinking Out Of Bottle
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At any age, some infants are nursing or drinking more than others each day. Keep in mind that recommended feeding amounts are just an average. Still, it can be helpful to know roughly when to start to watch for signs of readiness for solids and when to transition.

Rules for Feeding Baby Food

It is recommended that you start a baby on solid foods when they are able to sit with little or no support, have good head control, and open their mouth and lean forward when food is offered. These things usually happen between four and six months of age.

The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees that for most children you do not need to begin with a specific food or offer foods in a certain order. Foods offered should be developmentally appropriate so they are not choking hazards. By the time a child is seven to eight months old, they can eat a variety of different foods from various food groups.

There really aren't any hard and fast rules for feeding baby food, though. Even the guidelines on which foods to start and which foods to avoid have changed quite a bit.

While it was once thought that you had to start with cereal and should avoid things like egg whites and other "allergy foods," you can now start with whatever you like.

Avoiding specific foods won't keep your baby from developing food allergies. While infant cereal is often used as a first food, it does not have to be. If you do choose to use infant cereal. be sure to include cereals made from a variety of grains instead of only using rice cereal.

Infant Feeding Guidelines

When should you start feeding her more solid foods and less formula or breast milk? Solid foods will gradually make up a larger part of a baby's diet over the course of the second half of their first year. But breast milk or formula is still a baby's main source of nutrition for this whole year. You can expect your baby to eat more solids as they get used to them and are excited to try more. But they won't replace breast milk or formula.

As for how much solid food to give your baby, there are no definite guidelines. Instead, watch your baby for signs that she is still hungry or not satisfied, and then begin to offer more. If she gobbles down that tablespoon of carrots and seems eager to eat more, then maybe give another tablespoon or two. If after a tablespoon she has already lost interest and turns away from the baby spoon, then she likely isn't ready for more. Keep offering a variety of flavors and textures.

Guidelines to Starting Solid Foods

To help ease your baby's transition to solid foods, keep in mind the following guidelines:

  • Start solids when your baby shows signs of being developmentally ready, usually between four and six months.
  • An iron-fortified rice cereal is classically the first solid food that many people think babies should eat, but you can choose another developmentally appropriate food.
  • Experiment to find the best time to feed your baby solids. Typically, a baby will be most receptive to trying solids when they are not overly hungry or full.
  • If using purées, begin with a teaspoon or less when you are first introducing solids and then slowly increase to a tablespoon or more as your baby gets the hang of eating solid foods. If you are using the baby-led weaning approach, offer a developmentally appropriate food in a way that your baby can easily grasp.
  • Be aware of the dangers of choke foods, like uncut spaghetti, large globs of peanut butter, whole grapes, nuts, string cheese, and hot dogs.
  • Certain seafood can expose younger kids to mercury, so follow current fish and mercury warnings when feeding children seafood. These guidelines also apply to people who are pregnant and nursing.
  • Talk to your pediatrician if your baby won't eat any solids by the time they are seven to eight months old.

And even though rules of what you can feed your baby have changed a lot, it still isn't safe to feed honey to infants under age 12 months.

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  • AAP Policy Statement. Prevention of Choking Among Children. PEDIATRICS Vol. 125 No. 3 March 2010, pp. 601-607.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report. Diagnosis and Prevention of Iron Deficiency and Iron-Deficiency Anemia in Infants and Young Children (0-3 Years of Age). Pediatrics 2010; 126: 1040-1050.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement: Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Pediatrics 2012; 129:3 e827-e841