Recommendations by Age

Getting your child off to a healthy start sets them up for a healthy life. Click an age to learn what and how to feed your baby, from birth to 24 months.

0-6 months
6-12 months
12-24 months
Prenatal & Postpartum

WHAT TO FEED

  • Breast milk or iron-fortified infant formula: This is all your baby needs until foods are introduced around 4 to 6 months.
  • Vitamin D supplement: If you are exclusively breastfeeding, give your baby a daily supplement of Vitamin D, since levels in breast milk are very low.
  • The amount of breast milk or formula your baby needs will change as they grow.

WHAT TO AVOID

  • Milk: Drinking dairy milk before 12 months may result in intestinal bleeding and serious issues for your infant.
  • Plant-based beverages: Soy, rice, almond, and other plant-based milks are not recommended for your infant. In the case of dairy allergies or intolerances, your pediatrician will work with you to find an alternative infant formula option.
  • Honey: In children younger than 12 months, honey may cause botulism, a serious illness.
  • Fruit juices: Drinking juice can discourage your baby from eating other nutritious food that is not sweet.
  • Sugary drinks: Avoid soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.
  • Cereal: Do not add cereal to breast milk or formula in your baby’s bottle. This will not help your baby sleep at night and may interfere with how well nutrients are absorbed from breast milk or infant formula.

Learn more about what to feed and what to avoid

HOW TO FEED

  • Feed your baby in a pleasant environment where you can interact warmly and avoid distractions (including using your smartphone!).
  • Don’t force your baby to finish a bottle or continue feeding – your baby knows when to stop feeding.
  • Learn to understand your baby’s hunger and fullness cues, which may include: bringing hands to mouth; rooting reflex (i.e., turning their heads toward anything that strokes their cheek or mouth); sucking noises; fast breathing; clenching fingers; flexing arms and legs. Crying alone is not necessarily a sign of hunger. See how hunger and fullness cues change as your baby grows.

More feeding tips

WHAT TO FEED

  • Breast milk or formula: This is still the most important source of nourishment for your baby.
  • Solid food:
    • Start introducing mashed or pureed solid food sometime between 4 and 6 months when your baby is developmentally ready.
    • Begin to add lumpy and soft finger foods between 6-8 months.
    • You can begin to add chopped food and hard finger foods between 8-12 months.
    • Offer a variety of food from all of the food groups (vegetables, fruits, grains, meats/protein, dairy).

WHAT TO AVOID

  • Milk: Drinking dairy milk before 12 months may result in intestinal bleeding and serious issues for your infant.
  • Plant-based beverages: Soy, rice, almond, and other plant-based milks are not recommended for your infant. In the case of dairy allergies or intolerances, your pediatrician will work with you to find an alternative infant formula option.
  • Honey: In children younger than 12 months, honey may cause botulism, a serious illness.
  • Fruit juices: Drinking juice can discourage your baby from eating other nutritious food that is not sweet. Offer mashed fruits instead – they are a better source of nutrients!
  • Sugary drinks: Avoid soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.
  • Added sugars and sodium (salt): When choosing food for your baby, check the food label and ingredient list. Choose food with no added sugars and/or limited sodium.

Learn more about what to feed and what to avoid

HOW TO FEED

  • Follow your baby’s hunger and fullness cues, which may include: opening mouth when spoon gets near; reaching for the spoon or food; pointing to food; getting excited when food is presented; and expressing a desire for specific foods with words or sounds. See more hunger and fullness cues.
  • Offer your baby a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods with different flavors and textures so they learn to like them. Learn more about how babies develop taste preferences.
  • Establish a consistent schedule for meals and snacks.
  • Feed your baby in a pleasant environment where you can interact warmly and avoid distractions (including using your smartphone!).
  • Avoid offering common choking hazards such as nuts, grapes, popcorn, and hot dogs. Always supervise your child during feeding time!

More Feeding Tips

WHAT TO FEED

  • Fruits and veggies: Repeated exposure to fruits and vegetables early in life can help young children learn to like them. Offer a variety of types and different colors.
  • Whole Grains: Try foods like whole wheat bread and pastas or brown rice, which are rich in fiber and other key nutrients.
  • Healthy oils and fats: Healthy fats are important for brain development. Try deboned fish like salmon, tuna, or trout, or choose foods prepared with healthy oils, like olive, canola, corn, or sunflower oil.
  • Milk: You can begin offering pasteurized whole milk after your child’s first birthday. Only offer plain milk with no added sugars.
  • Water: Water is the best option to quench your child’s thirst.

WHAT TO LIMIT

  • 100% fruit juice: Offer fresh fruit instead. If you decide to offer 100% fruit juice to your toddler, limit to no more than 4 ounces per day and offer it in a cup, not a bottle.
  • Foods high in sodium: Your child’s taste preferences are still developing, and offering too many foods high in sodium – like packaged macaroni and cheese – at this age can teach them to prefer these foods for the rest of their lives.

WHAT TO AVOID

  • Plant-based beverages: Rice, almond, and other plant-based milks are not recommended for your toddler. In the case of dairy allergies or intolerances, your pediatrician will work with you to find an alternative infant formula option.
  • Sugary drinks: Avoid soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas and flavored milks, like chocolate or strawberry, which contain added sugar.
  • Added sugars: Added sugars are NOT recommended for children under two. Check nutrition labels to ensure no/zero added sugars are listed underneath “Total Sugars.”
  • Trans fats: Foods high in trans fats – like French fries – are not recommended for young children.

Learn more about what to feed and what to avoid

HOW TO FEED

  • Toddlers have small tummies! Plan 5 to 6 small meals and snacks each day to provide a variety of healthy food from all food groups (fruits, vegetables, meats/protein, dairy, whole grains).
  • Eat with your toddler and include them in family meals. Establish a feeding routine for your child’s meals and snacks, and make meal time a pleasant experience in a stress-free environment with few distractions.
  • Let your child self-feed with age appropriate utensils such as baby spoons, toddler plates, and sippy cups.
  • It is normal for a child to reject new food items the first time they are offered, especially those that taste bitter such as vegetables. But keep trying!  It may take some children up to 15 or 20 tries before accepting a new food!
  • Don’t pressure your toddler to eat, and don’t show signs of frustration or anger if your child decides not to eat the food that you offer them. There is always a next time to try to offer the new food again.

More Feeding Tips

  • Healthy eating during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, including eating plenty of vegetables and fruits, will help shape your child’s preferences for healthy and nutritious food.
  • Eating fatty fish like salmon, anchovies, or freshwater trout during pregnancy and while you breastfeed will provide your baby with omega 3 fatty acids which are needed for optimal brain development. Two to three servings (or 8 to 12 ounces) a week is a good goal.

What else do I need to know?

Click a topic for additional resources in developing healthy habits for your child.

Developing Healthy Habits
Food Safety
Preventing Choking
Preventing Mouth Burns
Food Allergy Considerations

Developing taste preferences

  • You can help shape your child’s preferences for healthy and nutritious food! Healthy eating during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, and in the first two years of life helps to establish a good foundation for making healthy choices as your child grows.
  • The earlier you introduce vegetables, the more likely your child is to accept them. Introduce your baby to a large variety of vegetables and fruits prepared in different healthy ways and textures before they turn 1 year old.
  • Do not offer your baby sugary drinks (including fruit drinks, sodas, sweetened teas). Offering these drinks could reinforce your baby’s naturally strong preference for sweet tastes and make it more difficult for them to learn to like healthy food and plain water.
  • Your child’s taste preferences are still developing, and offering too many foods high in sodium (e.g., like packaged macaroni and cheese) at this age can teach them to prefer these foods for the rest of their lives.

Introducing new foods

  • Vegetables can be more difficult for babies to accept at first, because they are naturally bitter. When introducing a new vegetable, try mixing it first with a familiar food such as breast milk, formula, or cereal.
  • Repetition is key! It is normal for a child to reject new food items the first time they are offered. It may take some children up to 15 or 20 tries before accepting a new food. Be patient and keep trying.
  • Picky eating, including wanting just a few food items or refusing food they once liked, is a common toddler behavior. Be patient with your toddler. Continue to provide a variety of healthy foods and encourage them to try new foods. But, don’t pressure them, and allow them to determine how much to eat.

Prevent foodborne illness with these tips:

  • Do not offer your child unpasteurized juice, milk, or dairy products, or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, or eggs (e.g., soft yolks or runny eggs).
  • Always follow these four steps to keep food safe from bacteria:
    • CLEAN: Wash hands and food preparation/serving surfaces often. Thoroughly rinse fruits and vegetables with warm water.
    • SEPARATE: Keep raw meats, poultry, eggs, and fish separate from other ready-to-eat food.
    • COOK: Cook food to the proper internal temperatures.
    • CHILL: Keep cold food in the refrigerator and get other food into the refrigerator within two hours of being opened or prepared.

Prevent food choking with these tips:

  • Supervise your infant during feeding time.
  • Infants and toddlers can choke on food items that have certain shapes (small and round) and/or textures (hard, very slippery, or elastic). Examples of common choking hazards are grapes, nuts, peanuts, popcorn, hard candy, carrots, hot dogs, meatballs, and chewing gum. Avoid offering these food items, or cut the round food in half or quarters before serving.
  • Sit your child in a high chair or secure them to a seat for meals and snacks. Eating while walking may increase their risk of choking.
  • If you offer fish to your toddler, which is strongly recommended, make sure it’s completely deboned.

Prevent mouth burns with these tips:

  • Only microwave food for short time intervals.
  • Always test the temperature of food before you serve it to your baby. It should feel lukewarm.
  • Heat bottles with breast milk or formula by putting the bottle under hot running water from the tap for about two minutes. You can also heat bottles by warming water in a pan on the stovetop, then removing it from the heat and putting the bottle in the water until it feels lukewarm.

Be prepared for food allergies with these tips:

  • If the biological parent has food allergies, talk to your child’s doctor about precautions you need to take when introducing common allergenic foods such as peanuts, eggs, dairy, or wheat.
  • You can introduce common allergenic foods to your baby when they are ready to eat solid food (usually between 4 and 6 months of age). These food items include dairy products such as yogurt or cow’s milk protein formula, eggs, soy, wheat, peanut butter, fish, and shellfish.
  • Introduce common allergenic foods to your baby after other solid food has been fed and tolerated, and with the first taste being at home. If no reaction occurs, then you can gradually increase the amount at a rate of one new food every three to five days.
  • If your infant or toddler develops signs of a food allergy (e.g., skin rashes, trouble breathing, nausea, vomiting, or loose stools in response to feeding) seek medical care and advice right away. You may also be referred to an allergist/immunologist—a doctor with experience in food allergy—for further evaluation.

Learn more about food allergy considerations for infants and toddlers

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