Meal Milestones for Babies: What to Feed Them, and When

Feeding your little one new foods and watching them experience new flavors is one of the most exciting parts of parenting. This time in your child’s life can also be confusing. There are so many feeding options available, it can be challenging to know what to feed your child and when.

Read on for some meal milestones and get ready to introduce your little one to some yummy foods.

Starting Solids

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies should be exclusively breastfed or formula-fed until six months. However, some parents start solids at four months. At this age, it’s more about introducing your child to different tastes and textures than using solid food for nutrition.

There’s no perfect age for starting solids, but most babies begin between four and seven months. It’s best to wait until your baby is developmentally ready.

Since solids aren’t for nutrition at this age, it’s best to introduce solids after your baby has had a feeding. Trying solids is a new experience, one that will take your baby quite some time to master, so you don’t want to do it when they’re hungry and irritable.

Babies who are ready for solid foods:

  • Can sit upright with support
  • Shows an interest in foods (watching others eat, reaching for food)
  • Opens their mouth when offered a spoon

You should start with simple, bland foods since your baby is used to milk. You may want to start with cereal or a pureed fruit or veggie. Some parents recommend starting with veggies so your child doesn’t only want sweet fruits, but you can start with whatever you like. Just make sure it’s just one type of food, not a mix. You should also wait three days between each new food to make sure your baby doesn’t have an allergic reaction.

Don’t go into the experience expecting your baby to gobble up an entire jar of food. Most babies take many exposures to food before they start to actively eat. At this stage, food should be more about exploration and play. If your baby isn’t interested, wait a few weeks and try again.

A Note on Baby-Led Weaning

Many parents are now opting to go with baby-led weaning. Using this process, parents don’t start out with purees and cereals. Instead, they offer their babies finger foods from the beginning. You basically put your child in a highchair at around the age of six months and offer them finger foods from fruits and veggies to meat, eggs and more. Your baby has the option on what to eat and when.

If you want to try baby-led weaning, be sure to wait until your child can sit well and chew and move food to the back of their mouth. You should also start with one food at a time in case of allergies.

Advanced Solids

As your baby progresses through the single-ingredient purees and cereals, they’ll next be ready to move into more complex baby foods. They’ll typically begin stage 2 foods between six and eight months, after mastering the stage 1 foods and can sit up unassisted. Stage 2 foods have a little more texture and are often a blend of two or more foods.

Stage 3 foods add in even more complex flavors and textures. Your baby will begin these foods around the age of eight months, once they’re crawling.

Table Foods

Table foods are any food that isn’t specifically made for babies. These foods are what the entire family is eating and haven’t been pureed for your baby. Some parents wait to start table foods until their babies have moved through the three stages of baby food, while others use them in between baby food or even exclusively, as seen in baby-led weaning.

Your baby needs to be sitting up well and moving food to the back of their mouth while chewing before trying table foods. Be sure to avoid foods that are choking hazards, like grapes.

Drinking From a Cup

While your baby can use a sippy cup from four months onward, most parents wait until around six months. You can begin practicing with a regular cup between seven and nine months – just prepare for a little mess.

Your baby should be drinking breast milk, formula or water from their cup. Kids under one shouldn’t drink juice.

Using Utensils

It’s exciting to see your little one eating with a spoon or fork. You can let your child hold a spoon as soon as they start eating solids, but they typically won’t try to use it until they’re around ten to 12 months old.

You can let your baby practice with cereal, noodles, small bites or bread and peeled fruits and vegetables. There are spoons that work well with foods like mashed potatoes or a mashed banana. The spoon can easily be dipped in the food with no scooping required.

Parting Thoughts

No matter when you decide to start solid foods or what you choose to feed your baby, just remember that it’s an exciting adventure for your family. Don’t stress about how much your baby’s eating or they’re learning quickly enough. Instead, focus on your baby’s exciting entry into the world of yummy food.

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