The first year of every child’s life is essential in his or her development, as this is the time when the baby learns about interacting with you and everything around them. Somewhere between 6 and 8 months, they are going to increase their ability to grasp objects, their teeth will slowly emerge from the tip of their gums and the interest towards eating will increase exponentially. A lesser known fact is that during this stage of a child’s development, they will slowly realize the difference between them and otherness, gaining significant knowledge about the boundary that separates their being from the exterior world. What you feed your child is going to influence their evolution as healthy individuals. Moreover, one of the most important factors to take into consideration when establishing your baby feeding guide is the possibility of them being allergic to one or even several substances – this means that you must wait to introduce foods that are most likely to be allergenic when your child is 12 months or older. While we will discuss items such as formula and solids (an article I go into more detail about in another post ), most pediatricians recommend feeding babies breast milk exclusively for their first year, if possible. However, for those that are either unable to or wish to try a different path, we will discuss other options in the article that follows.
Development and food up to 6 months
From a very early age your child will manifest a tendency to watch you when you talk to them, recognize noises and even react to these in different manners, whereas their physical development will manifest by leg-kicking and slightly lifting their heads when lying on their tummy. It is a well-known fact that children learn from their parents and then reflect what they have gained in one way or the other. This stage of development is marked by an increased growth of the brain and spinal cord, rendering any minor influence critical to the later evolution of their intellect and personality. It is most advisable to maintain a warm and nurturing relationship with your child in order to help them develop in a healthy manner.
In terms of food, pediatricians and nutrition specialists recommend that you focus on providing the child with natural breast milk on the basis of their demand, as well as try to offer them baby formula if you aren’t able to breast feed. Under 1 month of age, you should try to give them baby formula from 6 to 8 times a day and then gradually going down to 5 to 7 and 4 to 6 times every four to five weeks. The average quantity that a child should receive per serving varies from 2 to 4 ounces (roughly 50 to 120 grams) and it increases in quantity proportionally as you provide them with less servings. In terms of breast milk, they should be nursed somewhere in between 5 and 10 minutes per breast. A good sign that your baby is receiving enough nourishment are wet diapers and their number will vary anywhere between 6 and 8. In the case of formula, always remember to hold both the baby and the bottle, never to heat the food by microwave oven or force them to eat more than they want to. The latter type of behavior can cause a series of issues with your child, from dietary to psychological ones.
From 6 to 8 months
It is advisable that nursing continues still, although it should be alternated with formula meals and you should try to offer either of the two up to 6 times a day, in servings of 10 minutes or 8 ounces (roughly 220 grams). If the child is keen on sucking you can introduce them to a pacifier.
This is the average time when babies are introduced solid foods, but only in the form of puree or iron-fortified baby cereal (such as white or brown rice). You can try to puree sweet or white potatoes, carrots, squash or pumpkin. As for fruits, you can introduce them to bananas, apples, avocado, plums or peaches. The baby cereal can also be combined with their formula, case in which you shouldn’t try to feed them with a bottle.
Some possible clues that indicate your child is ready to try out solid foods are his or her ability to control their head, losing the extrusion reflex (pushing food out of their mouths with their tongue), significant weight gain, curiosity about solids that you are eating, along with an increased appetite. For these purposes, you want to be aware of your baby’s nourishment requirements and create your own baby feeding guide adapted to their needs.
From 8 to 10 months
By this point, they should be familiar both with pureed vegetables, fruits and cereal. However, the problem now might turn to how much food they eat and therefore, you need to closely monitor the amount of food that you are feeding your baby. Paediatricians indicate that you offer your infant both formula and breast milk up to 5 times a day and close to the same amount of mashed fruits and vegetables. If they have acquired a taste for cereal, you can try offering them one or two servings of up to 4 tablespoons of cereal, but still keep in mind not to use the microwave for heating it.
There are a lot of choices in terms of fruits and vegetables which need to appear on your baby feeding guide, but you should try to introduce them one at a time, with a few days break in between. Some of them will be constantly refused, while for others your baby might acquire a taste. Just remember to always strain them, as they cannot handle chewing chunks, and to keep them refrigerated.
From 10 to 12 months
In this stage of the your child’s growth you will start to notice that they are becoming more and more skilful at grasping objects, gaining abilities such as putting things in their mouth, the jaw motion of chewing or transferring items from one hand to another. To the previous stage of your baby feeding guide you can add small amounts of pasteurized or cottage cheese, cereals such as oats and barley, along with small pieces of protein food, such as eggs, pureed poultry meats, boneless fish meat, tofu and even well-cooked and mashed beans like lentils, black beans and split peas.
As you introduce your baby to finger foods, a lot of patience is required, while also always being careful not to give them chunks that require chewing. This period can also mark their introduction to various natural fruit juices (except from orange juice) and to being fed in a high chair.
Always remember to pay special care to possible allergens, as well as the provenance of the food that you are buying. Take your time when making such decisions, as it will never be a waste to ensure your loved one’s health.
After your child’s first birthday
Paediatricians state that it is safe to offer your baby whole milk, as well as other snacks while at the table. These snacks are important because children at this stage of growth have an increased energy need. They should be allowed snacks at the table, as they can otherwise develop patterns of conduct that are similar to grazing and will cause them to eat more than their body requires. This type of eating behaviour will lead, on long term, to eating disorders such as obsessive compulsive eating. As long as your baby feeding guide follows some of the rules mentioned above, you should feel free to personalize. You may rest assured that you are on the right path of forming your child into a responsible adult that has a healthy and varied preference of foods. Good luck!