Many parents worry about which foods and the proper amounts to feed their baby. Feeding a baby is demystified with the following baby feeding chart for infants, babies, and toddlers from birth to twenty-four months.
Breast Milk or Formula
According to the World Health Organization, infants under six months old should be fed only breast milk (preferable) or formula. Although breast milk is nutritionally the best food for babies, formula may be used to supplement or in place of breast milk. For mothers who choose not to breastfeed, replace breast milk with properly-prepared infant formula (and only infant formula) until age one. Avoid feeding your infant any other foods other than breast milk or formula before six months because an infant’s digestive tract is still underdeveloped. Additionally, starting solids too early increases your baby’s chances of developing food allergies or becoming overweight.
- Birth to 4 Months: From birth to four months, infants need two to four ounces of breast milk or formula per feeding and will need to be fed six to twelve times per day.
- 4 to 6 Months: From four to six months, infants need twenty-four to thirty-two ounces of breast milk or formula per day spread out into four to six feedings of four to six ounces.
- 6 to 8 Months: From six to eight months, babies twenty-four to thirty-two ounces of breast milk or formula per day spread out into four to five feedings of five to eight ounces. In addition to breast milk or formula, babies can be introduced to solid foods starting at six months of age.
- 8 to 10 Months: From eight to ten months, babies need twenty-four to thirty-two ounces of breast milk or formula per day spread out into three to four feedings of six to eight ounces.
- 10 to 12 Months: From ten to twelve months, babies need twenty to thirty-two ounces of breast milk or formula per day spread out into three to four feedings of five to six ounces.
- 12 to 24 months: Breastfeeding, but not formula feeding, past twelve months is also recommended. After twelve months, babies need sixteen to twenty-four ounces of breast milk per day spread out into one to four feedings.
The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Exclusive breastfeeding refers to feeding infants no other food or drink, not even water, except breast milk including pumped milk or breast milk from a wet nurse for the first six months of life. Exclusive breastfeeding allows an infant to receive ORS, drops, and syrups such as vitamins, minerals, and medication. If exclusive breastfeeding is not available, WHO lists a hierarchy for infant feeding: (1) exclusive breastfeeding, (2) breast milk pumped from the baby’s mother, (3) other breast milk (wet nurse or donor milk), and (4) breast milk substitute (infant formula). Caregivers may also provide mixed feeding options. For example, a mother may breast feed when she is with her baby while another caregiver feeds the baby the mother’s pumped milk. A mother could also breastfeed while supplementing with donor milk and formula.
See also The Problem with “Fed Is Best” and use #FeedAllTheBabies as an alternative hashtag.
Introducing Solid Foods
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. At six months of age, complimentary foods can be introduced with breast milk providing the bulk of nutrition until one year of age. As the saying goes, “Food before one is just for fun.” Breastfeeding should then continue until two years of age or beyond as mutually desired by both the mother and the baby. However, just how much solid food should a baby be eating at each stage of life?
Six to Eight Months
Beginning at six months of age, babies can be fed two to three meals and up to one or two snacks per day. Foods should be mashed with the texture of thick porridge. (Pureed foods are unnecessary at six months of age, and many babies actually prefer foods with thicker textures.) When solid foods are first introduced, begin with two to three tablespoons per feeding. Gradually increase portion sizes up to about half a cup of food per feeding by the end of eight months. Always offer breast milk before offering complimentary foods. Breastfeeding should continue on demand.
Nine to Eleven Months
By nine months, babies can be fed three to four meals and up to one or two snacks per day. Foods should be finely chopped or mashed depending on the skill level and preferences of the baby. Each feeding should consist of no more than one-half cup of food in total. Continue to breastfeed on demand as well as to offer breast milk before offering solid foods.
Twelve to Twenty-Three Months
After one year of age, babies can continue to be fed three to four meals and up to one or two snacks per day. The foods offered can be the same foods as the rest of the family is eating. Depending on the skill level and preference of the child, the foods can be chopped or mashed. Meals should consist of no more than three-fourths of a cup of food in total. Breastfeeding should continue as mutually desired by the mother and the child. For babies who are no longer breastfeeding, additional milk (cow, goat, soy, almond, hemp) can be given to replace the missing breast milk.
Feeding by Food Groups
Milk and Dairy
Babies who are ten months of age or older can begin drinking milk in addition to breast milk. If formula feeding, switch exclusively from formula to whole milk at around one year.
- 10 to 12 months: From ten to twelve months, babies can be fed one serving of dairy per day. A serving is equal to half a cup of whole milk yogurt or three-fourth ounces of cheese.
- 12 to 24 months: Between one and two years, babies can be fed two to three servings of diary per day, which includes half a cup of whole milk.
Cereal and Grains
A teething infant older than six months who can hold his or her head up and can sit up well is ready for the introduction of solids. However, never force your baby to eat. If a child initially refuses solids, try again in a few days.
- 6 to 8 months: From six to eight months, babies can be fed four or more tablespoons of iron-fortified baby cereal per day.
- 8 to 12 months: From eight to ten months, babies can be fed four or more tablespoons of iron-fortified baby cereal plus finger foods such as whole grain biscuits, crackers, bread, pasta, and brown rice per day.
- 12 to 24 months: Between one and two years of age, babies can be fed six or more servings of grains per day. Examples of servings include half a slice of bread, one-fourth cup dry cereal, one-third cup cooked cereal, half a bagel or muffin, and one-third cup of cooked rice or pasta.
Fruits and Vegetables
Also begin introducing fruits and vegetables into the diet at six months of age. Introducing one new fruit or vegetable every couple of days is recommended for the detection of any possible food allergies. Never feed a baby a piece of fruit or vegetable larger than his or her thumbnail to prevent choking.
- 6 to 8 months: From six to eight months, babies can be fed one teaspoon of strained or pureed vegetables per day working up to four to five tablespoons per day by eight months. Babies can also be fed one teaspoon of strained or pureed fruits per day working up to four to five tablespoons per day by eight months.
- 8 to 10 months: From eight to ten months, babies can be fed four or more tablespoons of mashed or cooked vegetables and four or more tablespoons of mashed or cooked fruits per day.
- 10 to 12 months: From ten to twelve months, babies can be fed four to eight tablespoons of vegetables and eight to twelve tablespoons of fruits per day.
- 12 to 24 months: Between one and two years, babies can be fed three servings of vegetables and two to four servings of fruits per day. A serving equals one-fourth to one-half cup cooked or raw vegetables, one-fourth of a cup of canned fruit, one-half of a cup of fresh fruit, and four ounces of 100% fruit juice.
Meat and Protein
Meats and other protein foods can be introduced at six months of age. As with fruits and vegetables, introduce each new food one at a time to establish any food allergies.
- 6 to 10 months: From eight to ten months, babies can be fed one tablespoon of meat or protein such as pureed meats or poultry, cheese cubes, tofu, and egg yolk per day.
- 10 to 12 months: From ten to twelve months, babies can be fed two to four tablespoons of meat or protein per day.
- 12 to 24 months: Between one and two years, babies can be fed two to three servings of meat or protein per day. A serving equals two tablespoons of cooked meat, fish, or poultry; one egg; and one-fourth of a cup cooked beans.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace the professional medical advice from your pediatrician.
Amount and Schedule of Formula Feedings: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/formula-feeding/Pages/Amount-and-Schedule-of-Formula-Feedings.aspx
Behan, Eileen. 2008. The Baby Food Bible: A Complete Guide to Feeding Your Child, from Infancy on. New York: Ballantine Books.
Formula Feeding: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/formula-feeding/Pages/default.aspx
Infant and Young Child Nutrition: http://apps.who.int/gb/archive/pdf_files/WHA55/ea5515.pdf?ua=1
Shelov, Steven P. 2009. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th edn. New York: Bantom Books.
Supplement Options: Donor Breastmilk, Milk Banks, and Formula: https://www.sdbfc.com/blog/2013/1/22/supplement-options-donor-breastmilk-milk-banks-and-formula
Up to What Age Can a Baby Stay Well Nourished by Just Being Breastfed?: http://www.who.int/features/qa/21/en/index.html
The World Health Organization’s Infant Feeding Recommendation: http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/infantfeeding_recommendation/en/index.html
Baby Feeding Guide: Safe Infant Feeding from Birth to Two Years: https://www.flickr.com/photos/harvest316/2134394886/ (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) and https://www.flickr.com/photos/djfrank/6156941158/ (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Breastfeeding an Infant: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Breastfeeding_infant.jpg
Amounts of Foods to Offer: http://www.who.int/features/qa/21/en/index.html