General Guidelines for Feeding
- Let your baby feed himself/herself with his or her hands. Make sure their hands are clean before eating. Most babies will not learn to use a fork or spoon until well after one year of age.
- Expect a mess! Making a mess is just part of learning how to eat.
- You decide what will be offered and at what time of day. Your baby will let you know if he/she wants to eat or not, and how much he/she wants.
- It does not matter if breastmilk or food is given first at meals, you can decide based on convenience and your baby’s cues.
- Offer up to 3 meals and 1 to 2 snacks per day.
- Make your baby one of the family at mealtimes. Baby will enjoy being “a part of the action” and will pick up lots of new skills from watching and copying others.
- Breastmilk is still a very important food for your baby. Continue to breastfeed until your baby is two years old or more. Offer other liquids in an open cup. Drinking from an open cup promotes mature drinking skills.
- At 9-12 months you may introduce whole cow’s milk (3.25%) if your baby is eating a variety of foods and iron-rich foods (meat and alternatives or infant cereal) twice a day. Avoid skim, 1% and 2% milks, and soy, almond, rice or goat’s milk until baby is at least 24 months of age. Never give unpasteurized milk.
- Water can be given in an open cup if baby is thirsty.
- It is not necessary to offer juice to your baby. If you do serve juice, limit to ½ cup (4 oz.) per day or less.
Food Group Tips
Vegetables and Fruit
- Offer soft, cooked vegetables cut in bite-sized pieces.
- Give pieces of soft, ripe fruit, such as bananas, peaches, kiwi and cantaloupe.
- Continue to give your baby infant cereal. It is a good source of iron. Try mixing it with fruit or yogurt.
- Offer finger foods such as dry toast strips, rice, noodles, cooked pasta, pieces of flat bread or pita and unsalted crackers.
Milk and Alternatives
- Offer cottage cheese, small cubes of soft cheese, shredded cheese or yogurt. Avoid yogurt sweetened with honey.
Meat and Alternatives
- Give bite-sized pieces of tender meat, poultry, fish, cooked beans, well cooked eggs and tofu.
- Try casseroles, stews, chili, split pea or lentil soup.
- If your baby refuses meat, try mixing fish, beans or tofu in sweet potatoes or squash to enhance flavour and texture.
- Avoid fish high in mercury like fresh/frozen tuna, shark, swordfish, marlin, orange roughy, escolar and canned albacore (white) tuna. Low mercury fish like white fish and salmon are a good choice and a source of healthy omega-3 fats. See “Facts on Fish” factsheet for more information.
After 12 months…
- By one year old, your child should be eating a variety of foods from each food group and drinking liquids from an open cup.
- Allow your child to feed him/herself.
- Have a regular schedule for meals and snacks. Avoid giving extra food or beverages between planned meals and snacks.
- Serve iron-rich foods at each meal.
- Continue breastfeeding until two years and beyond.
- Offer water if your child is thirsty.
- It is not necessary to offer juice to your child. If you do serve juice, limit to ½ cup (4 oz.) per day or less.
- Picky eating is normal for young children. Continue to offer a variety of foods even if your child has not liked it in the past.
- You decide what foods will be offered, where foods will be offered and at what time of day. Your baby will let you know if he/she wants to eat or not, and how much he/she wants. Respect their signs of hunger and fullness.
- Encourage eating together as a family. Children learn from role modeling healthy eating behaviours.
Always supervise infants and children when they are
eating. Children younger than four years should not be given foods that they could choke on. These include:
- Small smooth foods such as nuts, raw carrots, wieners, hard candy, cough drops, raisins, grapes and sunflower/pumpkin seeds.
- Fish with bones.
- Peanut butter spread thickly or served on a spoon.
Safer ways of preparing some of these foods include grated or steamed raw vegetables, chopped grapes or peanut butter spread thinly on a cracker. Never use honey in foods for your baby during the first year because it may contain a bacteria that could make your baby sick.
Where Can I Find More Information?
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit – www.hnhu.org
Eat Right Ontario – www.eatrightontario.ca
Speak with a Registered Dietitian for free by calling 1-877-510-5102