In the first year of life, infants undergo periods of rapid growth when good nutrition is crucial. In fact, nutrition in the early years of life is a major determinant of healthy growth and development throughout childhood and of good health in adulthood.

Your baby should be fed only breast milk or formula for the first 4-6 months. However, breast milk and formula cannot provide all of the nutrients and calories that will allow your infant to continue to thrive. From the age of 6 months until approximately 2 years of age, your child should gradually be introduced to different types of foods as they gradually transition from a diet centered on breast milk or formula. This transition period helps the child to slowly become accustomed to eating adult-type foods and familiarizes them with a wide range of textures and tastes.

Most infants begin the transition from liquid to solid foods with the introduction of infant cereals. This is given by spoon and not in the bottle unless your physician instructs you otherwise. After your child takes cereal well for a few days, you can begin to introduce vegetables, then fruits. We like to suggest vegetables for the first few foods because some children will become used to the sweetness of the fruit and reject the vegetables later. Do not start more than one new food every few days so that if your child develops a reaction you know which food caused it.

After your infant has had some experience with several different foods, you can begin to offer 3 meals a day, with 2 or 3 different foods at each meal. Allow your child to experiment with different flavors and textures. Between 6 and 8 months breast milk or formula are still the primary part of the diet and should be offered first. As the child gets older and incorporates a variety of foods in their diet, you can let your child have their fill of each food and finish the meal with breast milk or formula.

Many parents like to give juices, but juices have no nutritional value. Offering solid fruit to your child’s diet would meet nutritional needs for growth and development. There is no nutrition in fruit juice that can not be gotten from the solid fruit. In addition, many infants will fill up on juice, and refuse the better nutrition of solids later in the day. It is a good rule to limit juice to 4 ounces per day diluted half and half with water. Put it in a sipper cup only, so that the child does not become “hooked” on juice bottles.

Avoid feeding battles with your child. Many problems with eating disorders and obesity that develop later in life can be avoided by allowing your child to develop an awareness of their own appetite