Protein creates quite a buzz among parents these days, especially when it comes to knowing exactly how much growing children require on a daily basis.

For one, protein is the building block for all new tissue, so it is an important nutrient in the years of growth and development (all 18 years!). Secondly, because infants and toddlers are so small, their total protein needs aren’t very high, but the per pound body weight protein needs are greater than at any other time of life.

Protein requirements
AgeProtein per poundTotal protein per day
0-6 months1.1 gm9.1 gm
7-12 months0.9 gm11 gm
1-3 years.5 gm13 gm
4-8 years0.5 gm19 gm
Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients

Baby’s first food, either breast milk or iron-fortified infant formula, has adequate protein to support normal growth and development. When baby transitions to complementary foods at around six months of age, fortified grains are recommended, such as iron-fortified whole grain cereal, mostly to meet the increased need for iron and to help baby increase the texture of food.

Another good source of protein (and first food) is strained meat, as advocated by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Because anemia is still a reality for infants, strained meat provides iron, zinc, and well offers a quality protein source.

Protein is a satisfying nutrient — when eaten with a meal or snack, it helps keep hunger at bay. As baby grows into a toddler, it’s important to routinely offer sources of protein with meals and even snacks, as this will help meet nutrient needs, as well as help with appetite regulation.

Common protein-containing foods and their protein content
Breast milk4 ounces (1/2 cup)1.3 gm
Milk4 ounces (1/2 cup)4 gm
Yogurt1/2 cup4 gm
Egg1 medium7 gm
Beef1 ounce7 gm
Chicken1 ounce7 gm
Beans1/3 cup6 gm
Nut butter1 tablespoon4 gm

Because babies and toddlers eat small portions and a wide variety, it’s easy to meet their protein requirements with everyday food. In fact, studies show that when children are offered a variety of foods, they meet their dietary protein requirements.

Does this answer your question? If not, Ask Bundoo.


  1. Institute of Medicine. Dietary reference intakes (DRI).
  2. USDA. Nutrient Data Laboratory.
  3. Pediatrics. Sources of Supplemental Iron Among Breastfed Infants During the First Year of Life.


  1. So happy to read this article! I’ve been worrying lately because my son doesn’t eat meat. He is given the opportunity to eat meat pretty much every day, but he continues to put the chicken or beef in his mouth, chew for a second, and then spit it right back out! And I promise my cooking isn’t that bad! 😉 I’m almost positive it’s a texture thing for him. I have texture issues, too, so I understand! 🙂 But I have been worried about his protein intake. And according to the chart above, he gets plenty of protein in his daily diet! My mind is at ease! 🙂

    1. My daughters didn’t start eating beef or chicken until way after their first birthdays. The pediatrician always told me that it wasn’t necessary if they get protein in other foods. It is difficult for babies to chew it, especially when they don’t have all of their teeth in yet.


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