Now that your baby has more experience with solid foods, you might wonder which foods are “good” to introduce at this age and when it’s OK to introduce treats and snacks.
First, it’s important to offer an increasing variety of soft table and finger foods to your baby. This will expose your baby to different flavors and textures. If your baby does not have a history of food allergies and there is not a strong history of food allergies in your family, don’t hesitate to introduce your baby to nut butters, eggs, dairy, fish, soy, and wheat. Babies love to eat what they see their parents and siblings eating!
Your baby should still be consuming breast milk or formula as his or her main milk source — it is still too early for your baby to be drinking whole milk alone (this transition can happen at 12 months of age). However, foods made with whole milk (such as yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese) are fine.
Your baby does not need any fruit juice — juice tends to just add extra sugar to the diet and does not contain the nutrients and fiber that whole, fresh fruit provides. Giving your baby juice can also fill him or her up and interfere with an appetite for healthy foods.
Continue to offer your baby a sippy or straw cup with water. It is great to allow your child to practice drinking out of these cups, because it will make weaning from the bottle at around a year of age much easier. It is also good to continue to encourage your baby to develop a taste for water. Water may be offered with meals and snacks or on the go and does not need to be limited — but remember, at this point, water should not replace any of your baby’s scheduled breast milk or formula feeds.
As you continue to offer a more varied diet to your baby, now is the time to continue establishing healthy feeding practices and attitudes toward food. Though nothing is more rewarding than seeing your baby eat and enjoy food, it is important to remember that your baby’s appetite is naturally going to vary throughout the week, and even the day. So, try to not get frustrated by these peaks and valleys.
More than likely, what your baby consumes between breast milk or formula and solid foods is enough to obtain all of the necessary vitamins and minerals, and he or she should not need any vitamin supplementation. The exceptions to this might be continued vitamin D supplementation if your baby is still breastfeeding, and iron supplementation if your baby was premature or is not eating any iron-rich foods. Be sure to discuss supplement needs with your child’s medical provider.
Remember that your job as a parent is to decide when to offer food, what to offer to eat, and where the food is going to be offered. Your baby’s job is to decide what to eat of the offered food, and how much to eat. Try to avoid games such as the “airplane,” and do not force your baby to eat. Allowing your baby to make these decisions really helps him or her learn to self-regulate and listen to internal hunger cues, rather than eating just to make a caretaker happy.
In general, your baby should be eating about five to six small meals a day. This may break down to breakfast, lunch, and dinner and two to three well-rounded snacks. Try to include a protein, grain, fruit, and vegetable with every meal, and make snacks healthy as well! It can be helpful to combine foods that you know your baby loves with new foods. The more variety you offer your baby, the more likely he or she will be to try new, healthy foods. Remember that babies sometimes need to see a food 20 times before they will even touch it, let alone eat it, so try to not get too frustrated if your baby decides to avoid what you offer! More than likely, at some point your baby will try the food in question. It doesn’t hurt to model good behavior, too, so show him or her that you eat the same healthy foods!
As much as you can, have your baby sit in a highchair (or wherever mealtime typically takes place) for snacks as well. It can be tempting to allow your baby to graze on crackers, cookies, puffs, and other snacks lower in nutritional value throughout the day, but doing so can make your baby less hungry for more nutritive meals. It is also safer to have your baby sitting while eating in order to avoid choking.