Read time: 6 minutes

What should I know about the nutritional needs of a 6- to 12-month-old

  • Know the average growth rates of a 6- to 12-month-old

  • Understand which minerals and vitamins are needed during the first year of life

  • Learn what serving size may be appropriate for babies this age

Relative to their size, babies have a much higher need for energy, vitamins, and minerals than adults.1,4 

As you begin the exciting process of starting solid foods, emphasize nutrient-dense foods to support your baby’s healthy growth and development.

Remember this transition to solid foods is in addition to breastmilk or formula consumption. Don’t use food in place of milk but rather as an increasingly important supplement. Your baby is still receiving most of their calories and dietary nutrients from breastmilk and/or infant formula.2,3

Average weight gain and growth for a 6 to 12 month old

Babies 6-12 months old will gain around 3 to 5 ounces per week.4

Note that breastfed babies tend to gain slightly more weight than formula-fed babies during the first few months of life, but then formula-fed babies tend to gain more weight than breastfed babies in the latter part of the first year.4

By your baby’s first birthday, they will likely weigh about three times their birth weight.4

To accurately gauge weight gain over time, your baby should be weighed on the same scale with the same amount of clothing (or better yet, naked!).

Curious if your little one is growing well? Reach out to our team of registered dietitian nutritionists and lactation consultants for free! They’re here to help on our free to live chat from Monday through Friday, from 8am–6pm ET. Chat Now!

Nutrients important for growth and development between 6 and 12 months

While breastmilk and formula will provide most of your little one’s nutrition and calories until they are close to a year old, offering nutrient-rich foods will help your little one build healthy eating habits for the future.5,6

There are also a couple of nutrient gaps that may need to be filled starting around 6 months.

The below nutrients are some (but not all!) of the vitamins and minerals that play a role in your baby’s growth and development. Aim to introduce and include some (or all!) of these foods to help provide a varied and nourishing diet.

Remember that your little one may not get every nutrient every day, and that’s okay! Over time and with repeated exposure to all different foods, your little one will get what they need.

Note: Food sources of these nutrients are listed below but may not be in a form appropriate for babies. Make sure to choose foods that are appropriate for your baby’s age and stage of eating, as well as for your baby’s oral motor skill level.7

Iron

Iron is most easily absorbed from red meat, but also found in spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables (Swiss chard, beet, collard greens, Bok Bhoy, kale); beans (lentils, garbanzos, navy, kidney, black, pinto); tofu, and iron-fortified infant cereals.8

When you eat iron-rich plant foods along with foods containing vitamin C, the body absorbs iron much better.9 For example, add a squeeze of lemon to beans or a squeeze of orange to chopped, sautéed leafy greens.

Iron is particularly important for breastfed babies who take in minimal or no formula. This is because breastmilk contains very little iron. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends an iron supplement for breastfed babies until they are introduced to iron-rich solids at 6 months.10

Chat with your baby’s pediatrician before introducing a supplement. Also, be sure to include plenty of iron-rich foods in your baby’s diet!

Read more: Why is Iron Important for my Baby and Toddler?

Zinc

Foods that contain zinc include beef, lamb, turkey, shrimp, pumpkin and sesame seeds, lentils, garbanzos, spinach, asparagus, quinoa, yogurt, fortified grains, tofu, tahini, and tempeh.11

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables and especially high in red bell pepper, orange, grapefruit, kiwifruit, broccoli, strawberries, cantaloupe, and tomato.12

Read more: Why does Vitamin C Matter for Babies, Tots, and Mama?

Vitamin A

Food sources of vitamin A include sweet potatoes, carrots, red bell pepper, and other orange- and red-colored fruits and vegetables; dark green leafy vegetables (kale, collards, spinach, chard, beet and mustard greens), as well as yogurt, fortified whole milk, and pickled herring.13

Read more: Why does Vitamin A Matter for Babies, Tots, and Mama?

Vitamin D

Food sources of Vitamin D include salmon, fortified whole milk*, fortified milk alternatives*, sardines, egg yolk, canned light tuna, and some fortified whole grain cereals.14

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breastfed infants, and combination-fed (breast milk and formula) infants, should be given 400 IU of vitamin D supplement in liquid form every day beginning soon after birth.10,15

Formula-fed infants who are getting at least 32 ounces of formula per day do not need to take vitamin D supplements as formula already contains vitamin D.10

Chat with your child’s pediatrician about supplementation before giving it to your baby.

*Note that babies under 1 year should not be given cow’s milk or plant-based milk alternatives to drink; however, these can be used in small amounts in recipes. Read more here: How Do I Introduce Milk To My Toddler?

Read more:  Why does Vitamin C Matter for Babies, Tots, and Mama?

How much should I feed my 6 to 12 month old?

From 6 to 9 months of age your baby is still learning the skills needed to eat solid foods, so the amount of solid foods they eat may be quite low.18

At this stage, try feeding your baby 2 to 3 meals a day, and expect the average meal size to be only 2-4 tablespoons each.17,19 

This amount can vary from child to child and from day to day, so always follow your child’s hunger and fullness cues, and never force your little one to eat.20

By 9 months old, your baby should be ready for 3 full meals and 1 to 2 planned, nutritious snacks each day in addition to breast milk and/or formula.11,19

Expect the meal size to increase to approximately ½ to 1 cup per meal (less for snacks). And by their first birthday, your baby will likely be eating 3 full meals and 2 to 3 nutritious snacks each day.11

Read more: Introducing Solids: First Foods and Advancing Textures 

Tips for feeding your 6- to 12-month-old

Offer a variety of healthy foods

Goal: Offer a wide selection of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, fish, dairy, and meat throughout the week.

It can feel daunting to make sure your child is taking in every single vitamin and mineral needed for development if you are focused on a single day. Instead, look to balance their diet over an entire week.21

Read more: 

Meal Plan for a 6 to 9 Month Old Baby

Meal Plan for 12 Month Old Toddler

Focus on high quality snacks

Goal: Use snack time to incorporate a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts/seeds (or nut butters and ground seeds), and dairy; and even lean meat, poultry, and seafood.21

Your little one’s tummy is small so they can’t eat too much at a time. Because of this, snacks end up being an important way for your child to get more of the nutrition they need.

Rather than having the mindset that snacks are an invitation to eat junk food, teach them to ‘eat the rainbow’— offering fruits and vegetables in all colors. Provide a combination of protein, whole grains, and produce.

Many processed snacks have added salt and sugar, which babies do not need. In fact, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends no added sugar at all before the age of 2 years.23

When choosing convenience foods, look for no added salt or sugar on the ingredient list.

Learn more: Healthy Snacks for Babies and Toddlers

Follow your baby’s hunger and fullness cues

Goal: Offer food when your little one indicates they are hungry and stop feeding them if they seem full or no longer interested in eating.

Following your baby’s hunger and fullness cues is called “responsive feeding.” This practice helps your child develop healthy eating habits for the future.20

It also allows them to learn to listen to their own hunger and fullness cues and self-regulate how much they eat, only eating as much as their body needs each day.4,24

Learn more:  Understanding Your Baby’s Hunger and Fullness Cues: Responsive Eating

Let’s Chat!

We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.

Our Happy Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionists certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too! They’re here to offer personalized support on our free, one-on-one, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET). No appointment needed, no email or sign-up required. Chat Now!

Read more about the experts that help write our content!

For more on this topic, check out the following articles:

Introducing Solids: first foods and advancing textures

Transitioning to Cups for Babies and Toddlers

Food Safety for Babies and Toddlers

How to Help Avoid Giving Your Child Too Much Sugar and Salt

What Type of Milk Should My Toddler Drink?

How Do I Introduce Milk to My Toddler?


Sources

What Parents Are Saying

Read time: 8 minutes

What should I know about my baby’s healthy weight gain?

  • Read about the average growth patterns for babies and toddlers

  • Understand your little one’s hunger and fullness cues

  • Learn the division of responsibility when it comes to meal times

When it comes to feeding, we can help give our little ones a healthy start in life by responding to their needs.

By following your baby and toddler’s lead and responding to their hunger and fullness cues, you can help pave the way to a healthy relationship with food as well as help keep their growth healthy and on track.1

How much weight should my baby be gaining?

What is “average growth” for babies? Typically, babies double their birth weight by 4 to 6 months and triple it by the one-year mark.2 On average, infants gain between 4-7 ounces during the first 4 to 6 months and 3-5 ounces per week from 6 to 18 months.2

Exclusively breastfed babies follow a slightly different growth curve than formula-fed babies. Breastfed infants grow more rapidly during the first 6 months of life but less rapidly during the remainder of the first year.2

While many babies follow these average growth patterns, remember that every baby is different. Your baby may forge a growth path of their own.

If you are concerned, reach out to your baby’s doctor or chat with out team of registered dietitian nutritionists and lactation consultants for free! They’re here to help on our free live chat from Monday – Friday 8am - 6pm (ET). Chat Now!

Read more:

Should I Breastfeed On Demand or on a Schedule?

How much Formula does my Baby Need?

How much weight should my toddler be gaining?

In the toddler years, your child’s growth rate slows a bit.

Between the ages of 2 and 5 years, the average weight gain is 4.5 to 6.5 pounds.2 Eating during this age may become unpredictable. And while what and how much your little one eats at each meal may seem erratic; evidence suggests that the amount they eat on an average every day is fairly well regulated.3

Having a child that is picky and seems to have an inconsistent eating pattern is totally normal. Your toddler is very good at knowing how much their body needs. Keeping a regular eating schedule while honoring your child’s appetite can help keep your little one’s weight gain on track.3

Watch for your child's hunger and fullness cues

Don’t stress if your child’s food intake varies each day; this happens to all of us. It’s important to look for your baby’s hunger and fullness cues to avoid over- or under-feeding.

Hunger cues when breast or bottle feeding

When your baby is hungry and ready to eat, they may become more alert, put their hands or fingers on or in their mouth, make sucking motions, stick out their tongue, smack their lips, kick, squirm, or begin rooting (moving their jaw and mouth or head in search of your breast or a bottle).1

Fullness cues when breast or bottle feeding

While your baby is eating, notice the cues for fullness so that you can stop when they’ve had enough. Your breast or bottle-fed baby is likely satiated when they become distracted while drinking, fidgets or turns their head away, or closes their mouth tightly.1

Hunger cues when eating solids

When your little one begins to eat solid foods, hunger cues include leaning toward the food and opening their mouth, getting excited at seeing food, and focusing on food with their eyes.1

Fullness cues when eating solids

Fullness cues include spitting food out or pushing it away, becoming distracted, closing their mouth and refusing food, turning their head away, or playing and throwing food.1

Bottom Line

Your baby understands and follows their own natural cues for hunger and thirst. Your job is to read the cues while breastfeeding, formula feeding, or solid food feeding to help support their healthy growth and development.

Read more: Understanding Your Baby's Hunger and Fullness Cues: Responsive Feeding

Division of Responsibility

For older babies and toddlers, parents can control what, when, and where food is offered, but it is the responsibility of the child to control how much they eat (if anything!).6,7

Think of this Division of Responsibility in simple terms: it’s the parent’s job to provide and the child’s job to decide.

By following these roles and responsibilities and releasing control over how much your child is actually taking in, you will allow your child to eat and grow in a way that makes sense for their own body.

Learn more: The Division of Responsibility: Helping Avoid Picky Eating

What can I do to encourage healthy weight gain in my baby or toddler?

Follow your child’s lead for nursing and bottle-feeding, not the clock

Newborn babies typically eat every 2 hours if nursing and every 3-4 hours if bottle feeding.5 As baby ages, they will likely go longer between feedings and may eat more at each session.8,9

However, pay close attention to hunger and fullness cues to know just how much formula or breastmilk your baby needs. Sometimes cues for fullness are subtle, so stay engaged while feeding to learn when your child is all done, instead of continuing to force the bottle or breast into their mouth.

Try paced bottle feeding

Feeding a bottle in a more upright position so that baby is slightly sitting and the bottle is almost horizontal, will allow baby to regulate the flow of milk much better.10

When a baby is being held more reclined and the bottle is near vertical in their mouth, this causes the flow of milk to speed up which can lead to overfeeding.11

Allow for baby to pause and breath several times during a feeding by tipping the nipple of the bottle up and breaking their suction on the bottle. Using a slow-flow nipple may also help.

If your baby eats a lot with someone who is caring for them while you are out of the house, you may want to ask them how they position your child when feeding them.

Continual overfeeding may lead to baby gaining weight more rapidly than what is healthy and may make them less in tune with their own hunger and fullness cues.

Learn more: What is Paced Bottle Feeding

Practice Responsive Feeding

Your little one is very good at knowing how hungry or full they are. This self-regulation happens without them even thinking about it.

Our job is to honor their feeding cues to help them build healthy eating habits for life and promote healthy weight gain. This practice is called Responsive Feeding.1

It can be easy to override your baby’s own feeding signals by making them finish their bottle or food, and this may lead to difficulty maintaining a healthy weight.

Additionally, using food as a reward or offering it when your little one is emotional (even if they are not hungry), can lead to poor eating habits over time.1

Model healthy eating habits

At around 6 months, or when your baby is ready to start solids, expose them to a variety of healthy food choices and appropriate mealtime behavior.15

Babies imitate their loved ones, so try to have family meals often and serve everyone the same foods (with textures and pieces altered to match your baby’s abilities).12

Remember that kids also see the less healthy foods you eat, so try to be mindful of the types of foods you put on the table and into your own mouth.12

Try to avoid using food as a reward, as this approach can undermine healthy eating habits.

Read more: Family meals: Developing Healthy Eating Patterns

Follow the Division of Responsibility

Your child’s food intake will vary every day. Some meals will only consist of a few spoonful’s while other meals your little one will eat everything in sight. Be patient and remember that your child knows how much their body needs.

When it comes to feeding your child, it’s your job to decide what foods to offer, when to offer them, and where to offer them.6,8 But your child will decide how much they eat (of the foods you’ve offered) or if they eat at all.6,8

Just like adults, hunger and appetite in children may change from day to day.

Offer disliked and new foods over and over

Babies and toddlers are hard-wired to prefer sweet, salty, and fatty foods while rejecting sour and bitter tastes.4 This is why some vegetables may get a negative reaction at first.

The good news is that these innate taste preferences can be changed with time. Continual introduction and repeated exposure to the food, sometimes more than 10 times(!), can help your baby and toddler begin to accept and even like these foods.3

Read more: Helping your Child Build a Taste for Healthy Foods

Turn off screens and distractions during mealtimes

Turn off the TV, put away phones, tablets, and any other distractions, and allow everyone to focus on the food and each other.

Distractions will only make it more challenging for your child to follow their own fullness cues and may lead to mindless overeating.13

Allow planned snack times to support mealtimes

Your little one’s tummy is still pretty small and offering healthy snacks can help them meet their needs each day.

Provide your baby (and yourself) a sit-down snack between meals, but not within 1-1.5 hours of the next mealtime.15 This planning will help ensure that everyone arrives at the table hungry and ready to eat.

Check in with your pediatrician if you feel like your child is always hungry or doesn’t have much of an appetite

Your baby’s healthcare provider will be able to answer specific questions or respond to your concerns about whether your baby is growing normally and getting enough nourishment.

During each office visit, the pediatrician is already keeping track of your baby’s weight gain and monitoring whether their weight is continuing to increase at a healthy pace.


Let's Chat!

We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.

Our Happy Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionists certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too! They’re here to offer personalized support on our free, one-on-one, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET). No appointment needed, no email or sign-up required. Chat Now!


Read more about the experts who help write our content!

For more on this topic, check out the following articles:

Transitioning to Cups for Babies and Toddlers

Healthy Snacks for Babies and Toddlers

Does my Baby Need Vitamins or Supplements?

Food Safety for Babies and Toddlers

How to Avoid Giving Your Child Too Much Sugar and Salt

Sources