Feeding Milestones for Babies

Your baby’s first year is a wonderful time, with new things for you to marvel at every day. It’s a constant cycle of development and one of the big changes throughout the year is the change in your baby’s eating habits. Just think, your baby moves from liquid food at the start of the year to solids by the end of it and there are all sorts of other developmental milestones that go along with that. Here’s a guide to the baby feeding milestones you can expect to see in your baby’s first year.

0-3 months – Exclusively mother’s milk or formula.

In the first three months, babies are usually breast-fed or bottle-fed. That suckling reflex is strong almost from the moment they leave the womb, and they have plenty of time to practice at this early stage of life. Babies will open their mouths before feeding and will suck and swallow on their own. You won’t need much by way of supplies if you’re breastfeeding, though bibs and cloths always come in handy. The key thing for new moms to learn is how to feed their baby at an angle that works for them both – usually 45 degrees. A few things you might need:

  • Bibs
  • Breastpump & breastmilk storage bags
  • Bottles & nipples: For breastfeeding moms, one or two bottles and nipples might be nice to have on hand. Dad can use them to feed your breastmilk to baby if you need to be separated from him/her.

Breastmilk is the only food your baby requires until he or she is at least 4 months old, and most babies thrive on breastmilk alone for 6 months or longer. Except in extraordinary or unusual circumstances, there is no benefit to adding other types of foods or milks to breastmilk before 4 to 6 months. Many circumstances in which breastmilk appears to necessitate the addition of other foods stem from misunderstandings about how breastfeeding works and/or a poor start at establishing breastfeeding.

4-6 months – Start pureed baby foods and cereals.

At this stage, babies begin to get more active – and more interactive. If you are breastfeeding, you’ll probably notice that your baby is sucking harder – the result of three months of practice! This is no longer a reflex action, but something babies can turn on and off at will. They will also be able to introduce other things into their mouths, such as fingers and – if they can grab them – other small items, so watch out. This time is fun for the mom as babies are more responsive during feeding, dishing out squeals and smiles to gladden your heart.

Check out my Homemade Pineapple Baby Food Recipes.

During this period, mothers can introduce soft solids including pureed vegetables and fruits and some cereals. Around 6 months, babies will also be able to drink from a cup with some help. How do you know when it’s time to introduce solids? If your baby is showing interest in your food and is sitting up well with support, then it’s a sign of readiness to begin the first stages of weaning. You can ease some of the pain of moving between the solid stages by using store-bought baby foods which are packaged and labeled for the different weaning stages. This is also a good time to invest in a high chair, if you haven’t already got one.. A few things you might need:

  • Plastic Spill mats for around highchair.
  • Plastic bowls
  • Plastic sip cups
  • Rubber tipped baby spoons

Breastfed babies typically do not require solid foods until they are 6 months old. Indeed, based on weight gain and iron status, many children do not require solid foods until they are 9 months old or older. However, some babies will struggle to accept solid food if they are not introduced before the age of 7-9 months. Because the six-month-old baby will soon require an additional source of iron, it is generally recommended and convenient to begin solids at 6 months of age. By 5 months, some babies show a strong interest in grabbing food from your plate, and there is no reason not to allow them to begin taking the food, playing with it, putting it in their mouths, and eating it.

6-9 months -Begin to eat table foods.

By now, babies are comfortable with eating soft foods from a spoon and drinking from cups and are beginning to be interested in feeding themselves. They can get food off the spoon with their upper lip and may begin to eat finger foods and lumpier solids such as soft cookies. They may even start to be ready for finger foods, starting by raking the food into their hands, but then picking up food in a pincer grip. That’s the start of independence in feeding and your baby will soon be adept at this. You’ve got lots of options for finger food at this stage, including small pieces of meat and vegetables, bits of pasta, cereals and so on. A few things you might need:

  • Baby food grinder
  • Bottle / baby food warmer
  • Baby food jar holder

Doctors have traditionally advised starting babies on cereals and then progressing to other foods. However, the 6 month old is not the same as the 4 month old. If cereal is introduced at this age, many 6 month old babies do not seem to like it. Do not force the baby to eat it; instead, offer other foods and try again when your baby is a little older. But don’t worry, if he refuses, he won’t be missing out on anything. Cereal isn’t magical, and babies do just fine without it. In any case, your baby might soon be eating bread. The simplest way for the baby to get more iron is to eat meat.

10-12 months -Wean from bottle.

If your baby hasn’t previously eaten finger foods or lumpy foods, then now’s the time to introduce them. Your baby will probably drink mostly from a cup, with maybe a couple of feeds at bedtime or in the early morning. At this stage, babies are able to bite and once they have teeth you can progress to harder foods. Feeding will be more regular and you’ll have to fight your baby for control of the spoon.

Many children exceed this range, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends it for a variety of reasons. There are no specific recommendations for stopping breastfeeding, but the AAP recommends nursing for at least one year and the World Health Organization recommends at least two years. This is obviously a personal choice.

Essential Nutrients Every Child Needs

Are you worried that your child might not be getting the proper vitamins and nutrition that he/she needs in her diet? Studies have shown that there are several key nutrients that every child needs to ensure that he/she grows up healthy. Here’s a look at some of the most crucial that should be part of a child’s regular diet.

Calcium

This seems like a no-brainer, but many kids don’t get enough calcium in their diets. Keeping their bones strong is so important as their bone density will be decided by the time they are in their mid-teens, and those are the bones they are stuck with for the rest of their lives! What’s a parent to do if their children don’t like most dairy products, which is where we get most of our calcium? Add milk and yogurt to their smoothies, the fruit will be the only thing they can taste. Mix oatmeal with milk instead of water, and for a low-fat dessert, make pudding with milk and serve instead of cookies. If you’re lucky and your child likes dairy, provide a glass with every meal and you’ll met the three-serving ideal.

Magnesium

We have all heard that children need magnesium in their diets, but what does it do and where can we get it? Magnesium actually has a number of very useful functions in our bodies. This mineral keeps bones from becoming brittle, regulates heart beat rhythm, bolsters the immune system, and supports healthy, active muscles. With all of the areas magnesium can affect, it’s no wonder that kids need to have it in their regular diets. Nuts, fish, and whole grains are the best sources of magnesium. Serve roasted cashews or peanuts as an after school snack, or a slice of whole wheat bread with a smear of organic peanut butter. Have halibut or chili with kidney or pinto beans for dinner. While kids don’t necessarily need to get the recommended 130 milligrams per day, shoot to include 130 mg in their diets over the course of a few days. That should be plenty.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is essential to a healthy, responsive immune system. Since kids are exposed to many germs and bacteria at school and while playing with friends, their immune systems need to be fully equipped to battle those pests and Vitamin E can help. Fortunately, this key nutrient can be found in a variety of foods including nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Encourage the munching of roasted sunflower seeds and peanuts during little league games, and swap peanut butter for almond butter on their PB&J sandwiches as almond butter is higher in Vitamin E. Broccoli, kiwi, and mango are good sources as well.

Fiber

In order to keep your child’s digestive system running smoothly, a diet rich in fiber is highly recommended. Not only does fiber aid in digestion, but it is linked to lowering your child’s chances of type two diabetes or heart disease when he/ she is older. Fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains and legumes are the best sources of fiber. Put carrot sticks in your child’s lunch and give them a sliced apple after school. Use brown rice instead of white rice, and buy whole-grain bread
instead of white bread.

These are a few of the most important nutrients that a child needs in order to be healthy and suffer the least amount of preventable health problems. It’s great that there is crossover between vitamins and different foods. Nuts contain both magnesium and Vitamin E, while fruits provide both Vitamin E and fiber. It’s easy to ensure your child is getting the appropriate nutrients in his/her diet as long as you equip yourself with the right information. Here’s to getting them healthy and pumped full of the nutrients their little bodies need!

Final Word

If it appears that your child is falling behind on many of these milestones or your intuition is telling you that you need assistance, please consult with your child’s doctor. If you aren’t satisfied with the answer they give you or you are ready to get some definitive answers, I would recommend scheduling a free in-state  early intervention evaluation that is done in your home, or scheduling a private evaluation via your local children’s hospital, outpatient facilities, or a private pediatric occupational therapist. Consult your insurance company ahead of time to ensure you understand what is covered.

Source: Dr. Jack Newman is a Toronto pediatrician who has practiced medicine since 1970. In 1984 he established the first hospital based breastfeeding clinic in Canada, at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.  Dr. Newman has been a consultant with UNICEF’s Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative and has spoken at conferences around the world. He is the father of three children, all breastfed. Dr. Newman is the author of “The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers