Feeding Your Infant (4 months to 1 year)

Did you know that rice cereal does NOT have to be an infant’s first food? In fact, I don’t actually recommend rice cereal as part of infant diet at any point! It is fairly non-nutritive and there is no medical reason to give your infant rice cereal.Dr. Dunlap

So, if not rice cereal, where does one start when thinking about feeding their infant? Well, that answer has changed dramatically over the past 10 years or so. Older recommendations on feeding infants were very regimented, calculated and not necessarily based on good evidence. Therefore, many of those recommendations have gone by the wayside, making feeding your infant easier and, most importantly, more fun!

If you can mush it, you can give it to your infant! This means you can really start with any food that you might enjoy eating! Some healthy choices include ripe avocado, banana, steamed sweet potatoes and hummus (yes, I said hummus).

It is no longer recommended to wait several days between new foods. This is not only cumbersome, but it can greatly limit the variety of food your infant experiences in the first year of life. Feel free to offer a wide variety as soon as you start feeding your infant. Allergic reactions to foods are rare, but, if your child reacts strongly after a meal (hives from head to toe, swelling of eyes, vomiting) contact Dr. Dunlap.

It is now recommended to introduce peanut butter and eggs EARLY, before 7 months of age. Once introduced, these foods should be a regular part of your infant’s diet. This might actually help prevent allergic reaction to these foods. If either parent has an anaphylactic allergy to either of these foods, discuss this with Dr. Dunlap. Peanut butter can be a choking hazard due to stickiness, so try mixing it with some water or breast milk to thin it out, or add it to another food by mixing it well. You can also try PB2 powder sprinkled on another food.

Timing of Foods

First foods can be introduced as early as 4 months and no later than 6 months of age. Foods should never be given in a bottle, mixed with breast milk or formula. Therefore, if your infant is not yet holding his/her head steady and able to sit upright in a high chair or bumbo, he/she is not yet ready for solids. Premature infants and infants with other special needs might need a delayed start to solids. Discuss this with Dr. Dunlap.

Foods should be given once per day for the first several weeks. Breast milk/formula should continue to be the primary source of nutrition for the first 6 months of life. After 6 months, you can increase to 2 feeds per day. By 9 months, increase to 3 feeds per day of solids. At this time, it is very common for an infant to greatly decrease their intake of breast milk or formula. That’s okay, just go with it!

How Much Food?

This is a difficult question and will often vary with every meal. Your child might only take a bite or two in the beginning. Or, they may love their food and take up to 1-2oz. The best rule of thumb is to follow your infant’s cues. When they stop showing interest, turn their head to the spoon, or get fussy, it’s time to stop the meal.

Baby-Led Weaning

Many parents are interested in the concept of baby-led weaning, a relatively new theory that discourages spoon feeding and purees and encourages a baby to feed themselves from the first meal by offering very small pieces of foods. Although I definitely don’t think it’s necessary to use traditional purees when feeding your child, I always feel it is best to take a middle-of- the-road approach to feeding. Some babies do great with chewing right from the beginning. Others need more time. Be prepared to offer both purees and soft pieces of food and plan to be flexible. It is a myth that infants need to have teeth before they can handle solid pieces of food. The majority of chewing is done with the gums. Teeth are used for tearing and grinding food.

What to Avoid

  • Honey, until 1 year of age
  • Cow’s milk as a drink until 1 year of age (although dairy in all forms is okay to give as a food)
  • Choking hazards: anything round like raisins, whole grapes, whole nuts, hot dog rounds

Feeding your infant should be fun! If it is a battle, stressful in any way, or you are concerned about how your child is handling meals, give it a temporary break and call Dr. Dunlap.