Feeding patterns and diet - children 6 months to 2 years
Feeding children 6 months to 2 years; Diet - age appropriate - children 6 months to 2 years; Babies - feeding solid food
I Would Like to Learn About:
An age-appropriate diet:
- Gives your child proper nutrition
- Is right for your child's state of development
- Can help prevent childhood obesity
6 to 8 MONTHS
At this age, your baby will probably eat about 4 to 6 times per day, but will eat more at each feeding than the first 6 months.
- If you feed formula, your baby will eat about 6 to 8 ounces (180 to 240 milliliters) per feeding, but should not have more than 32 ounces (950 milliliters) in 24 hours.
- You can start to introduce solid foods at age 6 months. Most of your baby's calories should still come from breast milk or formula.
- Breast milk is not a good source of iron. So after 6 months, your baby will start to need more iron. Start solid feedings with iron-fortified baby cereal mixed with breast milk or formula. Mix it with enough milk so that the texture is very thin. Start by offering the cereal 2 times a day, in just a few spoonfuls.
- You can make the mixture thicker as your baby learns to control it in their mouth.
- You can also introduce iron-rich pureed meats, fruits, and vegetables. Try green peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, applesauce, pears, bananas, and peaches.
- Some dietitians recommend introducing a few vegetables before fruits. The sweetness of fruit may make some vegetables less appealing.
- The amount your child eats will vary between 2 tablespoons (30 grams) and 2 cups (480 grams) of fruits and vegetables per day. How much your child eats depends on their size and how well they eat fruits and vegetables.
There are several ways you can tell that your baby is ready to eat solid foods:
- Your baby's birth weight has doubled.
- Your baby can control their head and neck movements.
- Your baby can sit up with some support.
- Your baby can show you they are full by turning their head away or by not opening their mouth.
- Your baby begins showing interest in food when others are eating.
You should also know:
- Never give honey to your baby. It may contain bacteria that can cause botulism, a rare, but serious illness.
- Do not give your baby cow's milk until they are 1 year old. Babies under age 1 have a difficult time digesting cow's milk.
- Never put your child to bed with a bottle. This can cause tooth decay. If your baby wants to suck, give them a pacifier.
- Use a small spoon when feeding your baby.
- It is fine to start to give your baby water between feedings.
- Do not give your baby cereal in a bottle unless your pediatrician or dietitian recommends it, for example, for reflux.
- Only offer your child new foods when they are hungry.
- Introduce new foods one at a time, waiting 2 to 3 days between. That way you can watch for allergic reactions. Signs of an allergy include diarrhea, rash, or vomiting.
- Avoid foods with added salt or sugar.
- Feed your baby directly from the jar only if you use the entire jar contents. Otherwise, use a dish to prevent food-borne illness.
- Opened containers of baby's food should be covered and stored in a refrigerator for no longer than 2 days.
8 to 12 MONTHS OF AGE
At this age, you can offer finger foods in small amounts. Your baby will probably let you know they are ready to start feeding themselves by grabbing the food or spoon with their hand.
Good finger foods include:
- Soft cooked vegetables
- Washed and peeled fruits
- Graham crackers
- Melba toast
You can also introduce teething foods, such as:
- Toast strips
- Unsalted crackers and bagels
- Teething biscuits
Continue to offer your baby breast milk or formula 3 to 4 times per day at this age.
You should also know:
- Avoid foods that may cause choking, such as apple chunks or slices, grapes, berries, raisins, dry flake cereals, hot dogs, sausages, peanut butter, popcorn, nuts, seeds, round candies, and raw vegetables.
- You can give your child egg yolks 3 to 4 times per week. Some babies are sensitive to egg whites. So do not offer them until after age 1.
- You can offer small amounts of cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt, but no cow's milk.
- By age 1, most children are off the bottle. If your child still uses a bottle, it should contain water only.
1 YEAR of AGE
- At this age, you may give your baby whole milk in place of breast milk or formula.
- Most mothers in the United States wean their babies by this age. But it is also fine to continue to nurse if you and your baby want to.
- Do not give your child low-fat milk (2%, 1%, or skim) until after age 2. Your baby needs the extra calories from fat to grow and develop.
- At this age, your baby will get most of their nutrition from proteins, fruits and vegetables, breads and grains, and dairy. You can make sure your baby gets all the vitamins and minerals they need by offering a variety of foods.
- Your child will start to crawl and walk and be much more active. They will eat smaller amounts at a time, but will eat more often (4 to 6 times a day). Having snacks on hand is a good idea.
- At this age, their growing slows. They will not double in size like they did when they were an infant.
You should also know:
- If your child dislikes a new food, try giving it again later. Often it takes several tries for children to take to new foods.
- Do not give your child sweets or sweetened beverages. They can spoil their appetite and cause tooth decay.
- Avoid salt, strong spices, and caffeine products, including soft drinks, coffee, tea, and chocolate.
- If your baby is fussy, they may need attention, rather than food.
2 YEARS of AGE
- After your child turns 2, your child's diet should be moderately low in fat. A high-fat diet can lead to heart disease, obesity, and other health problems later in life.
- Your child should eat a variety of foods from each of the food groups: breads and grains, proteins, fruits and vegetables, and dairy.
- If your water is not fluoridated, it is a good idea to use toothpaste or mouthwash with fluoride added.
All children need plenty of calcium to support their growing bones. But not all kids get enough. Good sources of calcium include:
- Low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt, and cheese
- Cooked greens
- Canned salmon (with bones)
If your child's diet is balanced and healthy, they should not need a vitamin supplement. Some kids are picky eaters, but usually they still get all the nutrients they need. If you are concerned, ask your health care provider whether your child needs a children's multivitamin.
When to Call the Doctor
Call the provider if you are concerned your child:
- Is not eating enough
- Is eating too much
- Is gaining too much or too little weight
- Has an allergic reaction to food
American Academy of Pediatrics, Section on Breastfeeding; Johnston M, Landers S, Noble L, Szucs K, Viehmann L. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 2012;129(3):e827-e841. PMID: 22371471 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22371471/.
HealthyChildren.org website. How often and how much should your baby eat? www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/How-Often-and-How-Much-Should-Your-Baby-Eat.aspx. Updated October 29, 2020. Accessed December 6, 2021.
Parks EP, Shaikhkhalil A, Sainath NN, Mitchell JA, Brownell JN, Stallings VA. Feeding healthy infants, children, and adolescents. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 56.
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Liora C. Adler, MD, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, Hollywood, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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