It is not essential to begin solid foods until 6 months. At that time, it is recommended that iron-fortified foods be introduced into a baby’s diet, and rice cereal is a good source of iron. Rice cereal offers a chance for children to learn to eat from a spoon and is a good first food because you are in control of the thickness. Mix approximately 1-4 tablespoons of cereal with breast milk or formula. In general, it’s best to make a thinner mixture at first and gradually thicken the cereal as the infant progresses. Once your baby has eaten cereal for 1-2 weeks, you can to start introducing vegetables or fruits as well. You may also want to introduce other grains such as oatmeal cereal. Always remember to allow at least 4 days after introducing each new food. Infants in this age range only need to have 1 to 2 meals of solids per day and are still getting virtually all of their calories from breast milk or formula.
Between 6 and 9 months, you can continue to introduce new fruits and vegetables in pureed form and can increase to 2-3 meals of solid foods per day. As your baby approaches 8 or 9 months, you may want to introduce meats to their diet. Again remember to wait 4 days before introducing each new food. As your baby approaches 9 months, watch for development of a “pincer grasp,” as this is a good time to begin finger-feeding.
From 9 months to 12 months, infants progress from pureed foods to finger-feeding soft, chopped table foods. There are very few foods that your child can’t eat, provided the foods are soft and cut into small pieces. At this point, your baby should be eating 3 meals per day, with a balance of fruits, veggies, and proteins such as meats, fish, and/or eggs. You may want to avoid foods with a higher rate of food allergies such as peanut butter and shellfish until later. Be careful with round and/or skinned foods such as hot dogs, grapes, etc. These should always be cut into very small pieces and the skin may need to be removed. You may want to offer a sippy cup of water with meals for practice.
12 month olds and older should be eating regular table foods almost exclusively, and should have 3 meals per day and 1-2 snacks. At 12 months, children should switch from formula to whole milk and those children who are still breastfeeding may also be supplemented with whole milk. In general, milk should be thought of as part of a well-rounded diet, and children will drink less milk than the amount of breast milk or formula that they had consumed prior to 1 year. Juices should be limited as much as possible, and are not a necessary part of the diet.