Parents, especially first-time ones, often look for specific rules about what to feed their baby and how much to give them at every stage of their first year of life.
Unfortunately, those parents that look for rigid rules and feeding schedules are going to be disappointed when they don't find a one size fits all diet for their baby. While they may have an average baby that fits on an average schedule of when you might start cereal, baby food, finger food, and table food, they might have a baby that wants to start a little later or go a little slower.
Although newborns breastfeed about 8 to 12 times a day, once they are breastfeeding and gaining weight well, they may space out their feedings to just 8 times a day.
After that, a nursing baby may want to nurse more often during a growth spurt, but will likely be breastfeeding about:
- 7 to 8 times a day by 3 to 4 months of age
- 5 to 7 times a day by 5 to 6 months of age
- 4 to 6 times a day between 7 and 12 months of age
- 3 to 4 times a day after 12 months of age until the baby and breastfeeding mom are ready to wean
Keep in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that 'breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child.'
If a breastfeeding mother weans before a baby is 12 months old, then the baby should be given an iron-fortified baby formula.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in the book Your Baby's First Year, says, "most babies are satisfied with 3 to 4 ounces per feeding during the first month, and increase that amount by 1 ounce per month until reaching 8 ounces." For a 2 month old, that means that your baby will probably be drinking about 4 to 5 ounces of baby formula at a time.
Some babies never reach 8 ounces though, topping out at 5 to 6 ounces at a feeding.
The AAP provides another guideline about baby formula, suggesting that "on average, your baby should take in about 2 1/2 ounces of formula a day for every pound of body weight." So for an average 2-month-old boy who weighs 12 pounds, that would be about 30 ounces a day.
Keep in mind that the average baby drinks:
- 4 to 6 bottles of formula until they are about 6 months old
- 3 to 5 bottles of formula between 7 and 9 months of age
- 3 to 4 bottles of formula between 10 and 12 months of age
- 3 to 4 bottles of whole milk or a toddler formula once they are 12 months old
Cereal and Baby Food
When should you start cereal?
Do you start vegetables or fruits next?
How much baby food should your baby be eating when he is 6, 7, or 9 months old?
Once you and your baby have decided that it is the right time to start cereal when your baby is 4 to 6 months old, get your box of dry baby rice cereal and a feeding bowl ready. You will then mix about 1 teaspoon of cereal with 4 to 5 teaspoons of pumped breast milk or formula (or even water) to get the cereal to a "good" consistency. At first, that will mean that the cereal will not have much consistency to it at all. As your baby does well eating the cereal, add less liquid so that it is thicker.
After starting with just 1 or 2 teaspoons at a time, your baby will likely move up to 3 or 4 tablespoons of cereal once or twice a day. Keep in mind that experts usually recommend that an iron-fortified rice cereal be the first food that you give to your baby. Once your baby is tolerating rice cereal for a few weeks or months, you can then try oatmeal, barley, wheat, and then mixed cereal, in that order.
You can start other types of baby food once your baby isn't satisfied just eating cereal, for example when she is already eating 3 or 4 tablespoons of cereal once or twice a day and still seems hungry. Experts usually advise adding a vegetable to your baby's diet, before you start fruits, just because your baby might prefer the sweeter taste of fruits if you start them first. A mild tasting vegetable, such as green beans, peas, squash or carrots, are usually one of the baby foods that are started first. Like cereal, start with a few teaspoons and then work your way up to 3 or 4 tablespoons once or twice a day.
In general, most babies are eating:
- 3 to 4 tablespoons of cereal once a day and 1 to 2 tablespoons of a vegetable and fruit 1 or 2 times a day around the time they are 4 to 6 months old, with many infants being able to wait until they are 6 months old to start cereal and baby food
- 3 to 4 tablespoons of cereal once a day, 2 to 3 tablespoons of a vegetable and fruit twice a day, and 1 to 2 tablespoons of a meat and protein food once a day around the time they are 7 months old
- 4 to 8 tablespoons of cereal once a day, 2 to 4 tablespoons of a vegetable and fruit twice a day, and 1 to 3 tablespoons of a meat and protein food twice a day around the time they are 8 to 12 months old
As your baby gets older, he will move through the classic baby food stages and steps, starting with pureed, single ingredient baby foods and gradually moving up to stage 3 foods that have more texture.
Finger Foods and Table Foods
By 8 to 9 months of age, your baby can grasp food and get it to his mouth. He will likely enjoy feeding himself and will be more successful if you serve the right foods in the right sizes.
Watch your baby carefully as you give him very small pieces of the following finger foods, avoiding choke foods, such as whole grapes, raisins, raw vegetables, and large chunks of cheese:
- Gerber Graduates Fruit and Vegetable Puffs
- Toasted bread crusts
- Zwieback toast
- Cooked pasta
- Slices of a ripe peach, pear, or banana
- Gerber Graduates Yogurt Melt Snacks
Once you child has mastered eating finger foods, you might add rice and small bite-size cheese cubes.
You can also usually introduce yogurt at this age.
By the end of his first year or beginning of his second year, your baby will likely be eating the food that the rest of the family is eating.