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Food for Your Baby’s First Year

A Guide for Your Baby’s Nutritional Needs

Good nutrition is very important to your baby’s proper growth and development. In this episode, we will provide helpful tips and guides to help you make healthy choices for feeding your baby from birth to 12 months of age.

For babies up to 4 months old, only breast milk or iron-fortified formula is an appropriate source of nutrition.

Not only does human breast milk provide the perfect nutrition for your baby, it also provides the following benefits:

  • It’s more easily digested and reduces vomiting and diarrhea.
  • It strengthens the immune system reducing the likelihood of allergies, ear infections, urinary tract infections, and pneumonia.
  • It reduces the risk of childhood obesity.
  • It increases physical contact which promotes bonding between mother and baby.
  • For mothers, it reduces the risk of certain cancers and builds bone strength; plus it’s free and requires no preparation.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first 4-6 months, and continuing even after adding solid foods for the first year, and as long thereafter as desired.

Although breastfeeding is natural, it doesn’t mean you won’t need help. If you have trouble breastfeeding, you can get support from your health care practitioner or lactation consultant. Here are a few tips for a successful start:

  • Learn about breastfeeding before your baby is born.
  • Breastfeed as soon as possible after your baby is born.
  • Make sure your baby latches on correctly.
  • Avoid giving your baby bottles of formula, water, or pacifiers until breastfeeding is well established.
  • Breastfeed often to establish a strong milk supply.
  • Use a breast pump to store milk if you are a working mother, in order to provide your baby with the benefits of breastfeeding.

At around 4-6 months, your baby may be ready to start trying some solid foods; however, make sure to check with your pediatrician prior to introducing solid foods. These foods include items like rice cereal, applesauce, and strained or pureed bananas and pears.

At 6-8 months, your baby will develop the ability to munch food and use their thumb and index finger to pick up small pieces of food. At this time, in addition to breastfeeding and iron-fortified formula, you may try adding mashed potatoes, avocados, strained and pureed peaches, carrots, and squash, as well as teething biscuits if needed.

At 8-12 months, your baby can grind food, hold a cup, and their self-feeding skills improve. They should be able to eat foods like rice cakes, bite-size cheese cubes, soft tortillas, egg yolks, yogurt, oatmeal, tofu, noodles, peas, and strained/pureed chicken.

When you do begin to introduce new foods, start with one at a time, and wait about 5 days before giving the next new food to detect possible allergic reactions. Possible allergic reactions include skin rash, vomiting, respiratory problems, and diarrhea. Common foods that cause allergic reactions include cow’s milk, citrus juice and fruits, egg whites, and wheat products. And keep in mind that you may need to introduce the same food many different times before your baby accepts it.

Do not give sweeteners, such as honey, corn syrups, or foods that contain these sweeteners to infants. They may contain spores that can cause infant botulism, a food poisoning that can lead to death. Also, babies do not need desserts such as pudding, custard, or cobbler. Offer fruit for dessert instead.

Remember that feeding time is a learning time for your baby. Be patient and attentive to your baby’s needs. Feed them in a space that is easy to clean up, since getting messy is a normal part of learning to eat. When bottle feeding, hold your baby close, and never prop a bottle. Don’t allow them to fall asleep with a bottle in his or her mouth, as this can promote “baby bottle tooth decay.”

You can find this information, as well as additional brochures and podcasts on other important parenting topics on the Children’s Home Society of California's website at www.chs-ca.org. 

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