Your Baby’s Menu

Baby holding menuBy age six months, infants need nutrients from food in addition to what is provided in breastmilk or infant formula.  Babies need extra iron for optimal brain development, and zinc for their developing immune systems.  It is especially important to introduce potentially allergenic foods to prevent future sensitivities.  Such foods include wheat, nuts, eggs, and fish.  When introducing any new food, it is important to try it for several consecutive days in case of an allergic reaction.  Therefore, if a reaction occurs, you will know which food has caused it.  Whether you make your own or buy ready-to-eat baby foods, here are examples of possible choices:

Bread. After your baby is about 6 to 8 months old, it is okay to give him some types of bread.  However, it should be given in a way that is safe to prevent a choking accident.  Although digestion of bread and other starches begins within the mouth, it is safest to offer small soft pieces.  Whole grain breads are healthiest, providing more fiber and protein than refined flour breads.  Versions with seeds should be avoided, and crusts should be removed to prevent choking.

Cereal. Infant oat, barley, whole wheat, or quinoa cereal can be mixed with formula or breast milk.  Although it is often the first food pediatricians recommend for babies, it is fine to introduce a fruit or vegetable instead.   Apples and bananas are good first fruit options.  How thick should the cereal be?  It should be soft enough for your baby to eat, but thick enough to be fed with a spoon.  Infant cereal should never be added to a bottle of formula or expressed breastmilk due the risk of aspiration.  Do not sweeten cereal with sugar or honey.   Doing so may promote a preference for sweet tastes and future obesity.

At first, your baby will eat only a few teaspoons.  Eventually, he should eat about a 1/2 cup of iron-fortified cereal a day.  If cereal is your baby’s only source of iron, it should remain a consistent part of his diet.  Once he has begun to eat other iron-rich foods such as beans, spinach, eggs, and meats, daily cereal consumption becomes less important.

For infants who are interested in finger feeding, unsweetened, dry adult cereals (Cheerios) are good snacks.

Fruit. Fresh fruits can be mashed or pureed in a food processor for younger babies, but cut into small pieces when they have enough teeth.  Once a variety of fruits, vegetables, and proteins have been introduced, serve the savory foods first, then offer fruits as a dessert.  Given the choice, many babies will fill up on the sweet taste of fruits before other foods.

“Real” desserts are not a good idea for infants.  They are low in nutrition value, and contain lots of sugar.  Fruit or yogurt are better choices.

Juice. Juice is unnecessary for infants.  Water is a better option, and can be offered after age six months.  Juice is high in sugar, and promotes tooth decay.  After the first birthday, the American Academy of Pediatrics only recommends up to four ounces (1/2 cup) of 100% juice per day.   Even for toddlers, too much juice is filling, and can cause diarrhea or stomach cramps.   If you choose to offer juice, it should be diluted with water to reduce the amount of sugar your child consumes.  Avoid adult vegetable juices;  they are often high in sodium.

Meats, Fish, and Other Proteins. When your baby is 7 to 10 months old, he may eat 3 meals a day.  Foods will make up more of his diet than breast milk or formula.  As he begins to drink less “milk,” he will need to obtain protein from food sources such as eggs, cheese, yogurt, nut butters, ground fish, meats or poultry, silken tofu, or mashed beans, lentils, and chickpeas.  Meats are often babies’ least favorite food.  Without back teeth (molars), they are hard to chew, and can make him gag.  Try pureeing and mixing meats with his favorite vegetable or fruit.

Meats are a good source of iron; they also provide zinc, vitamin B12, niacin, and riboflavin.

Vegetables. During early infancy, commercially prepared spinach, beets, turnips, and collard greens are safer for your baby.  Homemade versions of these vegetables tend to be high in nitrites which can increase the risk of some cancers.   Peas, corn, green beans, squash, mixed vegetables, and sweet potatoes are better choices for homemade baby food.

More About Starting Your Baby on Solids Foods

When should I offer solid foods and what should those foods be?
Is Your Baby Ready to Try Solid Foods?
Changes in Bowel Movements
Feeding Himself
Shopping For Baby’s Food
Your Baby’s Menu
Food Supplements
Food Allergy or Food Intolerance?
Preventing Poisoning and Choking

Feeding Tips for Months 8 and 9

Until now, your baby has been eating the basics: cereal, milk, yellow and green vegetables and a few bland fruits. Unless your baby has developed an allergy or problems eating, now is a good time to begin introducing more new foods.  Once your baby tolerates individual fruits, vegetables and meats, it is ok to offer baby food blends.  Many available jarred or pouch options include healthy ingredients such as beans, quinoa, and mild seasonings.

At this age, some table foods may be offered.  Use a fork or blender to prepare:

  •  soft-cooked vegetables such as carrots, squash, or sweet potatoes
  • a ripe banana
  • mashed avocado
  • mashed potatoes thinned with formula or breastmilk
  • melon (be careful to remove all seeds
  • mashed hard-boiled egg yolks or scrambled eggs
  • well-cooked pastina with melted cheese

Avoid processed or fried items that are often high in salt or trans-fats as well as foods with added sugar.

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Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP
Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP

Dr. Alexander began her pediatric career at Elizabeth Pediatric Group of New Jersey in 2000, and has practiced at Pediatricare Associates of New Jersey since 2005. After graduating from Kalamazoo College and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, she completed her pediatric training at Overlook and Morristown Memorial Hospitals. She is board certified in General Pediatrics. In addition to pediatrics, Dr. Alexander pursued her interest the culinary arts with study at the French Culinary
Institute. In 2007, she opened Global Palate, LLC, catering small group events for six years. Dr. Alexander has also been a professional writer and editor since 2018, engaging in a variety of medical editing and writing projects.