Feeding your baby in the first year is an exciting time!
Although you may have ups and downs along the way, it is important to remember this is a time where your baby is developing, exploring and learning about food. As a parent, you will have an important part in helping your baby develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.
From birth to 6 months
Breastmilk is the only food your baby needs for the first 6 months of life. It provides complete nutrition for your baby and provides a special time for you and your baby to get to know one another. Continue to breastfeed your baby for up to two years and beyond, for as long as you both want to. If you have made an informed decision not to breastfeed your baby, you can request a copy of our resource on infant formula which provides information on how to feed it to your baby safely.
From 6 to 12 months
At six months, breastmilk continues to be your baby’s main food, but you can now start offering solid food. The solid food you give your baby at first is not meant to replace breastmilk, it complements it. Continue to breastfeed as you begin to offer solid food.
This is an exciting time for you and your baby! You may notice that your baby is showing an interest in food, has developed good head control, can sit up in a high chair and doesn’t spit out the food you offer. These are all signs that your baby is ready for solid food and this usually happens around 6 months. You do not need to offer solid food before 6 months – breastfeed more often if your baby seems hungry. Feeding Your Baby From Six Months to One Year: Your guide to help you introduce solid food to your baby (pdf).
What foods do I offer first?
Start with iron rich foods such as beef, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, eggs, tofu, legumes (i.e. kidney beans, lentils or chickpeas) or iron fortified infant cereals. Iron is important for your baby’s growth and development. To start, offer iron rich foods to your baby a couple times a day or more.
What about other foods and drinks?
Once your baby is eating iron rich foods regularly – anything goes (except cow’s milk and honey)! You can offer other foods such as vegetables and fruit, or yogurt and cheese. Gradually increase the number of times a day you offer solid foods and work up to offering solid food at regular meals and snacks. You can also continue to breastfeed for as long and you and your baby want. These sample meal plans (Healthy Canadians) will give you a guide of what to offer your growing baby. Remember: Every baby is different! Let your babies cues guide how much you offer.
Cow’s milk should be delayed until 9 to 12 months of age. If you are breastfeeding your baby, continue to do so for as long as you and your baby want. If your baby is not being breastfed, homogenized milk (3.25% M.F.) can replace infant formula from 9-12 months of age and when your baby is eating a variety of iron rich foods. You can give your baby sips of water any time after six months of age. Offer cow’s milk and water to your baby in an open cup, instead of a “sippy cup”. You may need to help your baby with this at first, but it will help teach your baby drinking skills.
Tip: Baby’s don’t need special foods. Give your baby foods that you and your family eat everyday. For example, if you are cooking chicken for dinner, offer this to your baby in an appropriate texture. Be sure to cook your meats and alternatives well, and keep them moist so they are easy to swallow. Check out these videos for tips on how to make your own baby food (Middlesex-London Health Unit).
What texture should I offer my baby?
You can offer your baby a variety of textures from 6 months, such as pureed, mashed, minced and soft finger foods (i.e. soft fruit such as banana, grated cheese, bread crusts and toast). Make sure you observe your baby at mealtimes so you can decide if they are ready for a new texture.
What about food allergies?
When introducing new foods, you should always supervise your baby and look for signs of an allergy. You do not have to wait to introduce new foods, unless you are offering a common allergen (Health Canada). These include foods like eggs, products with nuts, fish, soy, or wheat. You should wait a couple days before offering another food that is a common allergen to help identify the cause of a potential reaction. If you have a family history of food allergies, talk to your doctor about the introduction of certain foods.
Is there anything I shouldn’t give my baby?
Honey should not be given to infants under 1 year of age to reduce the risk of infant botulism (Healthy Canadians). You should also avoid foods that may be a choking hazard such as hard, small and round foods, and smooth and sticky solid foods. Examples are hard candies, gum, popcorn, marshmallows, peanuts/nuts, seeds, fish with bones or snacks with toothpicks.
From 12 to 24 months
By 12 months of age, your baby should be eating a variety of foods from Canada’s Food Guide (Health Canada). Aim to offer your child regular meals and snacks throughout the day (i.e. three meals per day and two to three snacks).
Keep in mind that children have small stomachs, so it is important to be realistic about how much they can eat. Start by offering about half of what you would eat at a meal or snack, and give your child more if they are still hungry. Never force or bribe your child to eat. Instead, keep offering healthy food and allow them to decide how much and if they will eat. It is normal for children to be “picky” about the foods that they eat. Stick with it! Keep offering nutritious foods and keep meals pressure free. Your child will eventually learn to like them. Check out these tips for your picky eater (Eat Right Ontario) for more information.
Continue to breastfeed your baby for as long as you both want. If your baby is not breastfed, offer 500mL per day of homogenized (3.25% M.F.) cow’s milk. After two years of age, you can give your baby skim, 1% or 2% milk.
Remember: Children are growing quickly and have high energy needs. Be sure to offer your child energy dense foods such as breastmilk, cow milk, cheese, avocado, and nut butters.
Other feeding tips
- Involve your child at mealtimes. Sit them at the table in a highchair with the rest of the family.
- Kids don’t need juice – limit 100% juice to ½ cup, once per day if at all. Offer water instead in an open cup!
- Be a good role model by eating nutritious foods too. Children learn from others around them.
- Always supervise your child during mealtimes. Get rid of distractions such as the T.V and toys, so your child can focus on eating.
- Avoid giving children under four years of age foods that can cause choking such as hard candies, gum, popcorn, marshmallows, peanuts/nuts, seeds, fish with bones or snacks with toothpicks.
- Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants: Recommendations from Six to 24 Months