Adequate nutrition is an integral part of your baby's first year of life because of its strong influence on growth and development. A baby's meal plan throughout the first year changes based on age and developmental skills. Consult your pediatrician before deciding on any meal plan for your baby.
In the Beginning
Pediatricians recommend breast milk as the preferred source of nutrition for newborns. If you are not planning on breastfeeding your newborn, you should provide an iron-fortified infant formula. From birth until about 2 months, infants should breastfeed about eight to 12 times a day or be given 2 to 3 oz. of infant formula eight to 12 times a day. As they begin to grow, infants should be able to take more formula and require fewer feedings. From 2 to 4 months, breastfed infants should be feeding eight to 10 times a day, and formula-fed should be able to take 4 to 6 oz. six to eight times a day.
4 to 6 Months
At 4 to 6 months, breastfed babies should be nursing six to eight times a day, or formula fed 5 to 8 oz. five to eight times a day. At 4 months, if your baby is able to hold his head up and move food laterally in his mouth with his tongue, than you may be able to introduce iron-fortified rice cereal. Rice cereal is the first recommended solid food because it is the least allergenic. Mix 1 tbsp. of rice cereal with enough breast milk or formula to make a soupy mixture. Feed your baby once a day, increasing the amount of rice cereal up to 8 tbsp. a day as his appetite and skills for solid food improve. After he has been on rice cereal for a week, you can introduce oatmeal or barley cereal.
6 to 8 Months
At 6 to 8 months you can start to introduce pureed fruits and vegetables into your baby's diet. Be sure to introduce one new food at a time, closely monitoring for any allergic reaction, such as a skin rash or stomach upset. Your baby should continue to get most of her nutrition from breast milk or infant formula. A typical day might include 24 to 32 oz. of breast milk or infant formula, 8 tbsp. of cereal, 4 tbsp. of pureed fruit, 8 tbsp. of pureed vegetables and 2 to 6 tbsp. of pureed meat divided into six mini meals. A baby's appetite can vary from day to day, so do not be alarmed if she does not eat everything you offer from one day to the next.
8 to 12 Months
At 8 to 12 months, you may be able to start introducing more soft, chewable foods if your baby has teeth and the ability to chew and manipulate food. Talk to your pediatrician to help you determine your baby's readiness. A typical meal plan for an 8- to 12-month-old should include 24 to 32 oz. of breast milk or infant formula, 4 to 8 tbsp. of peeled, soft-cooked vegetables cut into chewable pieces, 4 to 8 tbsp. of soft fruits, 1 to 6 tbsp. of soft-cooked meats -- excluding shellfish and egg whites -- and grains such as crackers, toast or pasta two to three times a day. Foods and milk should be distributed among six small meals a day.
- Healthychildren.org: Amount and Schedule of Formula Feedings
- Krause's Food, Nutrition and Diet Therapy; L. Kathleen Mahan, MS, RD, CDE, et al.; 1996
- Health Canada: Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants: Recommendations from Birth to Six Months
- Earth's Best: Suggested Infant Feeding Schedule