1. Repeat, repeat, repeat

Don’t be surprised if your baby doesn’t seem to like a new veggie on the first try. Repeatedly offering small amounts of a particular vegetable to let babies get used to the taste of it can improve vegetable acceptance. It can take 10 or more tries for a baby to like a new food, especially when it comes to bitter vegetables. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 A negative facial reaction to a food doesn’t necessarily mean your little one dislikes the food. Oftentimes they react with strong facial cues in response to any new flavor or texture.

2. Introduce veggies early and often

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend a specific order for introduction to various food groups. Although, one study showed that at 12 months of age, babies who started solids with vegetables had a 38% higher vegetable intake when compared with babies who started with fruit. 6 Whether you start with infant cereal, pureed fruit, smashed avocado or pureed peas, be sure to continue to offer a variety of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins and good fats to increase acceptance of all foods.

3. Variety

Infants who are fed a variety of vegetables on a regular basis are more likely to accept new vegetables and new foods in general. 3, 6-9 There is no shortage of vegetables to try, just be sure they’re prepared in a texture appropriate for your baby. You can also try different cooking methods (steam, roast, sauté) and ways to add flavor (fresh or dried herbs and different cooking oils like olive and avocado oil) to not only expose your baby to even more flavors and textures, but also increase the likelihood that they’ll accept a new veggie.

4. Gradual introduction

When preparing a new vegetable, you can gradually advance how it is prepared, starting with the vegetable pureed with breastmilk or prepared formula and then advancing to mix the vegetable with another already accepted food, such as a fruit puree or cereal. As your baby gets older, you’ll progressively advance to lumpy mixtures, soft solids, and soft table foods as your baby shows readiness. Once your baby is self-feeding, be sure veggies are cooked enough to be “smushable” between your fingers and pea-sized to prevent choking.

5. Modeling

Aim to eat meals together as much as possible. Babies tend to mimic parents’ behaviors, so when they see you consistently eating veggies at mealtime, they’ll be more likely to want to take part!  Modeling healthy eating at one year predicted higher frequency of vegetable consumption at 2 years. 11

6. Visual exposure

As frustrating as it is to see your baby refuse veggies time and time again, keep in mind that exposure doesn’t necessarily mean your baby has to eat the vegetable. It can include letting your baby touch, smell, lick, or even play with the food on their tray. This visual and tactual exposure is really beneficial in bridging the gap between your baby refusing a veggie to one day trying it because of repeated past visual exposure.

7. Breast feeding

Even breast feeding contributes to early vegetable acceptance. The different flavors in mom’s diet impact the taste of the breastmilk, which gives your baby exposure to new flavors before they’ve even begun solids! 1, 8, 10

With repeated exposure, variety of veggies, and positive mealtimes with the family, you’ll be setting up your baby to learn to love vegetables for life.

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 Baby 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 Mon-Fri 8am-8pm (EST), and Sat-Sun 8am-4pm (EST). No appointment needed, no email or sign-up required. Chat Now!

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When can I introduce vegetables to your baby?

Vegetables can be introduced right away when starting solids. Some parents question if introducing vegetables as a first food will change baby’s palate to have a preference for them versus sweet flavors (from foods like fruit), but that has not been proven. The key is to introduce vegetables often and in a variety of ways to increase chances of acceptance. It has been shown that the earlier vegetables were introduced in the infant’s diet, the better their acceptance, both in infancy and at a later age in childhood

How should I prepare the veggies?

If you’re introducing vegetables with the traditional pureed food method, you’ll start with spoon feeding purees and progressively advance to lumpy mixtures, soft solids, and soft table foods as your baby shows readiness. A carrot, for example, can be steamed and then pureed with some breast milk or prepared formula to get a smooth texture for a baby first trying vegetables. To progress to a lumpy texture, steam and then fork mash carrots with a few tablespoons of breast milk or prepared formula. Next your baby might enjoy soft, steamed, pencil-thin strips of carrot that they can hold in their hand and eat, or diced, steamed carrot pieces (pea-sized) that they can enjoy while practicing the pincer grip and self-feeding.

If boiled broccoli or steamed spinach seems bland, it doesn’t have to be! You can use oils (e.g., olive or avocado), and seasonings, such as fresh or dried herbs and spices to enhance the flavor of your veggies. Not only will this expose your little one to an even greater flavor profile but expand their palate and get them used to flavors you use to cook at home. And it turns out, babies love flavor! One study showed that nursing mothers who increased garlic in their diet had babies nursing at the breast longer and more vigorously when they detected garlic in the breastmilk.

Try cooking your baby’s butternut squash with fresh or dried thyme, or sautéing spinach with garlic before pureeing. You can also add cooking oils, such as olive or avocado oil, as fats help improve the texture and palatability of vegetables. And once your baby has happily accepted single veggies, you can combine. Try a blend of parsnips and peas or zucchini and sweet potato to increase the variety that your baby enjoys. There are no herbs or spices (except salt) that you can’t use! Remember, babies all over the world are enjoying different flavors and seasonings, and new ingredients keep feeding interesting. Roasting vegetables can also bring out their natural caramelization, or sweetness, so it’s a great cooking technique to not only get the veggies to a soft texture but also to enhance the flavor.

Too much salt can be harmful for babies’ kidneys, which is why it’s not recommended to salt your baby’s food in an attempt to enhance the flavor. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Heart Association all advise against salting baby’s food as well as reviewing nutrition fact panels (NFPs) to limit daily sodium intake. Helpful hint: when looking at a NFPs, strive for foods with sodium <10% of Daily Value. As your baby is tasting new flavors for the first time, the natural taste of the veggies enhanced with oils, herbs and spices is all she needs for it to taste delicious!

Keep offering

Don’t be surprised if your baby doesn’t seem to like a new veggie on the first try. It can take 10 or more tries for a baby to like a new food, especially when it comes to bitter vegetables. While you don’t want to ever force your baby to eat a food, repeated exposure (which includes letting baby touch, smell, lick, or even play with the food on their tray) will significantly increase the likelihood that baby will one day try the new food, and maybe even learn to love it! Don’t be alarmed by a negative facial reaction to a new food! It doesn’t necessarily mean your little one dislikes the food. Oftentimes they react with strong facial cues in response to any new flavor or texture.

If you’re afraid you started too late with introducing vegetables, don’t worry! Humans can learn to love new flavors at any age, so keep providing delicious opportunities for your little one to love veggies.

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 Baby 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 Mon-Fri 8am-8pm (EST), and Sat-Sun 8am-4pm (EST). No appointment needed, no email or sign-up required. Chat Now!

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All about Formula Feeding, Breastfeeding, Combination Feeding and Pumping

Is your partner breastfeeding? Wondering how to help and provide emotional support? Check out the following articles for support and ideas:

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Starting Solid Foods

Is your baby nearing 6 months? Are you beginning to think about starting solids with your little one?  How do you know when your baby is ready? Check out this article to find the signs you should look for: Starting Solids: Signs of Readiness.

Wondering what foods to start with and when to advance textures? This article has you covered! Introducing Solids: First Foods and Textures.    

Here are some more of our most popular articles around starting solids:

Already started solids and wondering how to keep advancing foods or increase variety? Check out our meal plans by age: 12 month old meal plan and 18- 24 month old meal plan.

Have more questions? That’s totally normal! Chat one on one with our feeding experts now.

Picky Eating

Is your once happy eater, suddenly more picky? Wondering if there is anything you can do about it? There actually is! Start with our Picky Eater Guide and check out these additional articles and meal plans for more ideas:

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Sometimes it can be quite challenging to get your child to eat vegetables, especially if your child is a picky eater. Pouches that mix fruits and vegetables are a great way to increase the acceptance of veggies by your little one. Try to incorporate a few veggie-only purees throughout the week to get your child used to the taste of vegetables – the more exposure they have to veggies, the more likely it is they’ll enjoy them!

An important stage in feeding is transitioning from purees into lumpier textures, or soft solids. These purees allow your little one to learn how to manipulate foods in his mouth, as well as begin to use a chewing motion. Pouches can be a great way to help your infant progress through textures and develop these important feeding skills. You can achieve this by mixing a pouch in a bowl with steamed and slightly mashed vegetables, meats or whole grains, then feeding it to your little one with a spoon.

Some ideas for foods that can be steamed, gently mashed, then mixed with a pouch include – carrots, potatoes, squash, peas, green beans, and even proteins such as cooked ground beef, finely shredded chicken, beans or gently smushed fish.

As the popularity of pouches continues to rise, so does the innovations of pouches, that have ingredients like fruits and veggies and incorporate important nutrients like omega-3 ALA’s and fiber. Feeding directly from the pouch can be a part of a healthy feeding routine that also includes spoon feeding and self-feeding to help a child develop.

Early feeding cues

Early feeding cues may include smacking or licking lips, opening and closing mouth, sucking on lips, tongue, hands, toys, etc. You may even see some of these early hunger cues when your baby is just starting to wake up from his nap and is still sleepy. However, at around 6-8 weeks, sucking on fingers/hands may not actually indicate hunger, as your baby is learning to explore his hands and may even begin teething!

Active feeding cues

When your baby is presenting active feeding cues, you may see him rooting (mouth wide open, looking for a nipple) on whoever is carrying him; other cues include trying to move towards the breast, hitting at the breast, fidgeting, squirming, or fussing.

Late feeding cues

Late feeding cues include crying, fussing, a red face from crying, and baby moving his head frantically side to side. Crying is actually a late indicator of hunger, and it can be difficult to feed at this point as the baby will need to be calmed down before he is able to be fed.

You may hear from various providers that baby needs to be eating every 2 hours. Every baby is different, and some can go longer stretches (4-5 hours) between a couple of feedings. On average, a newborn will feed 10 to 12 times in a 24 hour period. As long as baby is audibly sucking/swallowing at the breast or bottle, having 5-8  wet diapers by their fifth day of life (or by the time your milk comes in), 2-4 dirty diapers per day, appears sleepy and relaxed at the end of a feed, and your pediatrician is satisfied with weight gain then he is likely getting enough. Once your baby has established a good weight gain pattern, you shouldn’t need to wake him to feed and can let him set his own pattern, responding to his feeding cues accordingly.

 Starting Solids Feeding Cues

Soon after you get the hang of understanding your newborn’s feeding cues, he’ll be old enough to start solids, and with that comes the introduction of understanding new feeding cues! The World Health Organization as well as American Academy of Pediatrics recommend introducing solid foods around 6 months of age, when he shows the signs of readiness.

You want to be sure your baby shows signs of developmental readiness before you begin solids. These include sitting upright unassisted, having lost the tongue-thrust reflux as shown by no longer pushing food out of their mouth with their tongue, and being interested in solids by showing eagerness to be part of mealtime. While most babies are developmentally ready for solids around 6 months, some don’t show any interest in solids until closer to 9 months. Letting your baby touch the food, smell it, see it, and play with it is all beneficial exposure to get him used to food in general. For more information on signs of readiness, check out Introducing Solids: Signs of Readiness .

We like to say: “Under One, Just for Fun” because during this time introducing food will be about learning to eat and trying different tastes and textures, rather than to provide a majority of baby’s calories. Breastmilk or formula should still be baby’s primary source of calories under the age of 1 year. For that reason, it is important to feed your baby solids about an hour after he has had breastmilk or formula in order to make sure introduction of solids doesn’t cause a significant decrease in breastmilk or formula intake. Aim to feed solids once or twice per day, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time. Once baby gets the hang of eating, you can graduate up to eating 2-3 times per day, 2 to 4 tablespoons at a time.

When spoon feeding baby, it is important to go slowly and follow your baby’s cues. This helps ensure you’re not spooning food into their mouth faster than they’re ready for it nor offering one more scoop just to finish the last of the jar. You’ll notice your baby has many different facial expressions with each new bite of baby food, from scrunching his nose to puckering his lips. Even a facial expression that may register as dislike isn’t always the case. Your baby is tasting new foods for the first time and may simply be trying to make sense of the new flavors and textures in his mouth! Repeated exposure to a variety of flavors and textures is important for expanding your baby’s palate. A baby will give you the cue that he’s ready and interested in more food by happily opening his mouth wide towards the spoon. He’ll make it just as clear when he’s all done eating. A baby will turn his face or pull away from you, close his mouth, squirm in his chair, or bat away at the spoon when he’s decided he is done eating, so don’t try to get in one more bite! This helps to maintain a positive feeding experience and you and your baby will both look forward to the next meal.

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

What to Know

Lactose itself is the sugar found in dairy products. Lactose intolerance is a digestive problem that can cause discomfort such as bloating, cramping, diarrhea, and gas. Because of a deficiency of an enzyme in the body called lactase, people who are lactose intolerant are unable to digest this milk sugar. The best treatment is avoiding dairy products and choosing lactose-free products. Lactose intolerance is not very common in babies and typically shows up in children after the age of 3.

While lactose intolerance is rare in babies and tots, some little ones with dairy sensitivities may actually have an intolerance or allergy to the milk proteins whey and casein (versus the milk sugar with lactose intolerance.)

A milk allergy or intolerance could potentially cause a wide range of symptoms from a rash, hives, itching, and swelling to a more life-threatening reaction such as anaphylaxis. Babies who have a milk allergy may also experience frequent loose stools that may possibly contain blood or mucus, frequent spitting up, vomiting, and discomfort.  A cow’s milk allergy is the most common food allergy in infants and young children with approximately 2.5 percent of children younger than 3 years being allergic to milk. Fortunately, most children will eventually outgrow this as they get older and their digestive systems mature.

Your pediatrician may ask for a stool sample to check for blood, as sometimes the blood is not visible to the eye. Breastfeeding moms must eliminate dairy in their diet since the milk proteins pass through breastmilk, while formula feeding moms will likely need to switch to a specialized formula.

When eliminating dairy in your own diet or trying to figure out what foods to offer your tot, reading labels is critical. The following words will indicate the presence of milk in the product:

  • Milk
  • Lactose
  • Whey
  • Casein
  • Curds
  • Milk by-products (like butter)
  • Dry milk solids
  • Nonfat dry milk powder

You may wonder how you or your child’s nutritional status may be impacted when foregoing dairy products. Fortunately, there are many foods that can supply the important nutrients that dairy provides, such as protein, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D. All whole fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, meat, poultry, fish, grains, and eggs are dairy free. There are also many non-dairy substitutes on the market, such as soy yogurt or coconut milk so you can still cook and bake dairy-free with ease. When it comes to meeting your and your baby’s nutritional needs, choose a variety of these non-dairy containing foods.

What to Do

  • Observe the symptoms: Does your baby have gas and bloating? Loose stool with blood in it? Eczema or skin rash? This will help determine the problem.
  • Consult with your pediatrician if you suspect your baby may have a milk allergy or lactose intolerance.
  • Read food labels’ ingredient lists for sources of lactose or milk protein that need to be avoided.
  • Seek out non-dairy alternatives to use in cooking and baking as needed, such as non-dairy margarine and soy milk in baked goods, or canned coconut milk in creamy soups.
  • Eliminate dairy in your own diet if your breastfed baby develops a milk allergy.
  • Seek out non-dairy sources of protein such as meat, eggs, fish, tofu, and beans.
  • Seek out non-dairy sources of calcium, such as dark leafy greens, tofu, legumes, and calcium fortified non-dairy beverages.
  • Seek out non-dairy sources of vitamin D, such as salmon, egg yolks, and some fortified cereals and non-dairy beverages.

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

The primary goal is to be your own detective, read labels, and make inquiries at restaurants or other events involving food. Allergens can be hidden in coatings, thickeners, spices, natural flavors, and other ingredients found in fresh, frozen, refrigerated, and shelf-stable foods.  Preparing meals and snacks at home can help you maintain control over food sources and help prevent cross-contamination. 

Pro Tip:

This meal plan is created for women who are truly allergic, or who are breastfeeding and need to undergo an elimination diet to determine what foods their infant may have an intolerance or allergy to. Taking these foods out during pregnancy or breastfeeding, if not warranted, may actually promote intolerance in your infant as complete avoidance will prevent the immune system from learning that these foods are not actually harmful. If you are breastfeeding and your infant is showing symptoms of allergy or intolerance, and you have discussed the issue with your and/or your infant’s healthcare provider (HCP), this meal plan may be used to eliminate the major allergens.

This diet can be tricky. Make sure to work closely with your HCP as he or she knows what is best for you and your baby. To determine which foods were not tolerated by your baby, your HCP may have you add these foods back into your diet one at a time after they have been eliminated for 2-4 weeks, or until your infant stops having symptoms.

Choosing meals and snacks from the below listed options will help eliminate major allergens (dairy, soy, eggs, gluten, and peanuts) while helping you maintain adequate nutrient intake.

The first decision concerns timing: when should you begin feeding your baby? Research points to six months as the ideal time for introduction of solids because your little one’s intestines are mostly developed. Other important signs of readiness for food include ensuring your baby can sit up with minimal support, keep her head up and steady, and show interest in the foods you’re eating. (For more information on when to start solids, please see Introducing Solids: Signs of Readiness

Introduction of food is complementary to breastmilk and/or formula feeding, which should remain the primary source of nutrients and calories up through the first year. Think of eating as a way for your baby to explore food, tastes, and textures; rather than a way for them to get most of their nutrients.  This will allow you and your baby to set aside frustration and have more fun with the process.

There are different methods that parents may choose when it comes to baby’s first bites.  Below reviews the traditional as well as alternative approaches to feeding, including their pros and cons.

Traditional: Purees to Start

This technique has been around longest and is the one recommended by most pediatricians.  It begins with spoon-feeding purees, graduating to lumpy mixtures, soft solids, and soft table foods; progressively advancing textures as the baby matures and shows readiness.

While many pediatricians still recommend fortified single grains mixed with breastmilk or formula as the first food, followed by pureed vegetables and fruit, there is no medical evidence indicating that solids should be introduced in any specific order. This includes the theory that vegetables should be introduced before fruit. Babies have a natural preference for sweet tastes regardless of which foods come first. Rather than worry about the order of produce introduced, the primary goal is to introduce many flavors to set your infant up for successful eating both now and in the future.

The traditional method also suggests adding one new food every 2 to 3 days to check for intolerance or possible allergic reactions, although this recommendation is becoming less frequently used by professional organizations such as the AAP. After each new food, watch for symptoms such as diarrhea, rash, or vomiting. If these occur, consult with your infant’s health care provider to discuss the next steps. Vegetables and proteins are high in nutrients per serving, so having them as a consistent part of your baby’s diet alongside fruits and grains, will ensure a variety of quality nutrients are offered.

Another older recommendation is to wait until between 7 to 8 months to introduce proteins such as chicken, turkey, fish, beef, and dairy foods (excluding cow’s milk, which should be introduced at 1 year).  Research indicates this may not be necessary, and in fact introducing meat early, particularly to breastfed babies, will help them meet their increasing iron and zinc needs. Simply ensure the proteins are a texture your baby is able to tolerate.  This might mean introducing ground beef, pureed chicken, or mashed fish initially until he is able to chew (or ‘gum’) advancing textures.  (See: What’s the Deal with Seafood for more information on which fish are high in mercury and should be avoided for infants).

Though some health care providers counsel to hold off on offering fish, eggs, and other potential allergens until your infant is one year or older, new research indicates earlier introduction may actually help prevent allergies.  (To learn more, please see: Introducing Major Allergens)

When your baby is able to bring her hands to her mouth, typically between 8 and 10 months, finger foods may be introduced.  During this time she is developing her ability to ‘gum’ foods, as well as developing pincer and fine motor skills needed for self-feeding.  Very soft foods cut into small pieces are still needed as baby does not have enough teeth to break up hard foods. 

Baby Led Weaning (BLW)

This progressive technique discourages spoon feeding and supports infants to self-feed from the beginning.  The theory behind this method is that infants should be in control of what and how much they eat. Proponents also say BLW helps to better develop infants’ chewing skills and hand-eye coordination.  Because infants have more control of their ability to grasp and swallow at 6 months, BLW is recommended to start around this age and not sooner.

Per Baby Led Weaning, first foods should be soft enough to ‘smush’ between the fingers and cut into a ‘strip’ for the baby to grasp.  Advocates for this technique advise adults to never put food in the baby’s mouth. This allows the infant to be in control of the entire feeding experience. Example first foods include: Banana, avocado, mango; steamed sweet potato, carrots, broccoli, asparagus; steamed apple and pear; well-cooked fish and scrambled eggs; over-cooked pasta, etc.  Foods that are choking hazards should be avoided, as with any feeding method.  (See: Preventing Choking for more information).

Some proponents also promote feeding baby what the family is eating (“table food”); however, these foods may be too high in salt and sugar.  Feeding family foods may be acceptable so long as a separate dish is prepared without these added ingredients. 

Potential advantages: Greater acceptance of foods, weight management, promotion of oral motor and chewing skills. It should be noted that some of these benefits are contested.

Potential disadvantages include: Not meeting infant’s increasing iron needs, not meeting calorie needs, too much added sodium or sugar, risk of choking.

For more information on the potential benefits and disadvantages of Baby Led Weaning, please read Introducing Solids: Baby Led Weaning.

Feed Almost Anything, Anytime

This method is similar to the traditional method in that you may choose to start with pureed foods and advance textures as appropriate; but it differs in that a much wider variety of foods are offered from the start.  This includes: fruits, vegetables, eggs, fish, chicken, meat, combination foods, mixed grains, beans, dairy (still not cow’s milk to drink though), etc.  Another difference is that this method does not require waiting 2 to 3 days to introduce a new food, but rather new foods are introduced anytime and in any combination – not just one at a time.  As long as the food is a consistency that your baby can handle, the food is within the realm of possibility.

As with any feeding strategy, avoiding foods with added salt and sugar is key to your infant’s health as well as the foundation to building healthy taste preferences.  Should you decide to follow this more relaxed strategy, it may be important to keep a food log of what your infant eats so that if symptoms of a possible food intolerance or allergy pop up, you can see what items it may be linked to.

How do you decide?

Baby feeding is exciting, yet can also be riddled with questions of how to proceed and progress. Speak with your infant’s pediatrician to gather more information and ensure they support the method you choose. This will allow for better care of your infant as you introduce solids. 

If you’re unsure of how to start, begin with what you are most comfortable with and progress as you see best and safest for you and your baby.   If you begin using one method and it doesn’t feel right, there is no harm in switching to another.  But most of all, enjoy the journey!

Tips and information on introduction of solids

  • Feed baby when she is not overly hungry and is in a good mood to avoid frustration on both her and your part.
  • Diaper rash may be due to changes in the digestive process after foods are introduced and does not necessarily indicate an allergy or intolerance.  
  • Stool will become more solid, will vary in color, and may change in odor as foods are introduced.  If foods are mashed and not strained, you may find undigested pieces of food, which is not of concern.
  • Research does not support introducing vegetables before fruit. Offering a variety of both in any order is adequate.
  • Stop feeding your baby once she shows signs of being finished: turning her head, crying, not opening her mouth. Wait to offer more until she is ready at the next feeding, rather than force feed.
  • Iron is important for infants to consume starting at 6 months. This can come from fortified infant cereal or meats such as chicken, turkey, beef, and fish. 
  • Your infant may reach for your spoon!  Provide her with her own to play with and explore.
  • Have fun!

What to Do

1.First Foods

No matter which feeding style you choose, make sure that the first foods you introduce are very soft. Infants do not have teeth so what you offer must be soft enough for your baby to mash with their tongue or gums.  Examples:

  • Steamed or pureed vegetables: broccoli, peas, sweet potato, butternut squash, cauliflower, asparagus, carrots, etc.
  • Steamed, pureed, or mashed fruit, no skin: Apples, pears, banana, avocado, mango,
  • Infant cereal or over-cooked pasta
  • Well-cooked pureed or finely chopped ground beef, chicken, turkey, or fish.
  • Well-cooked scrambled eggs
  • Whole milk yogurt blended with pumpkin puree, banana, avocado, or blueberries.

Avoid adding salt or sugar to your infant’s food. Advance textures when your baby is ready.

Read Introducing Solids: First Foods and Advancing Textures for information on introducing solids to your infant. 

2. Finger Foods

When your baby is ready to feed herself, or if you choose the Baby Led Weaning method, here are some finger foods to try.  Place four to five pieces of food on your infant’s tray to start, adding more as she feeds herself (or attempts to!).

Soft Finger foods:

  • Steamed strips (for baby to grasp if pincer skills still need development) or bite-sized piece of sweet potato, winter squash, and carrot. 
  • Ripe banana, avocado, mango, peaches, watermelon, plum, cantaloupe, honeydew melon.
  • Scrambled egg
  • Toast strips or pieces (smeared with a thin layer of avocado or small amount of nut butter if you like)
  • Small cubes of tofu
  • Over-cooked pasta, cut into pieces

Once your baby becomes better at ‘gumming’ foods well before swallowing, slightly firmer foods may be tried in addition to the above foods.

  • Small pieces of cheese
  • Cucumber
  • Roasted or cooked beans and sweet peas (If you notice these coming out whole on the other end, slightly smush them with your finger to break the skin and allow for better digestion).
  • Steamed broccoli or cauliflower ‘trees’
  • O-shaped toasted cereal
  • Chopped hard-boiled egg
  • Pea-sized pieces of cooked chicken, ground beef, turkey, or fish.

3. Foods to avoid

Some foods pose choking risks for infants and toddlers due to their shape or hard texture.  Here are some foods that should be avoided:

  • Hot dogs and sausages
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grapes
  • Hard, gooey, or sticky candy, such as marshmallows and caramels
  • Chunks of peanut butter (if you are introducing nut butters, spread it very thin on a slice of toast)
  • Popcorn
  • Raw vegetables, such as carrots and celery
  • Chunks of cheese and meats
  • Chewing gum
  • Small foods with pits such as cherries and olives
  • Large pieces of bread
  • Added salt and sugar

To learn more, please read our article on Preventing Choking

4. Go with the method that feels right to you

Know that there are no studies showing any one feeding method as superior to another, so go with the one that is right for you and your family.  Whether you choose the traditional, Baby Led Weaning, or the ‘anything’ approach, how your baby reacts to it – and how comfortable you are – is the best indicator that it is working… or not!  Taking into account the benefits and disadvantages of each will help you feed your baby what they need both for health and exploration.  For additional support, speak with your pediatrician about your decision.  And remember that you can switch techniques at any point!

5. Meet your baby’s iron needs

Iron needs increase after 6 months of age, so including foods with iron is an important part of feeding.  Note that iron from vegetables and beans is better absorbed when eaten with vitamin C.  Pair these foods with some citrus fruit to accomplish this. 

Food high in iron:

  • Iron-fortified cereals and grains, such as oatmeal and pasta
  • Red meat (ground beef)
  • Dark green leafy vegetables such as: spinach, Swiss chard, beet and collard greens, Bok choy, and kale
  • Lentils and beans
  • Tofu

For other nutrients that your baby needs between the ages of 6 and 12 months, read this article:  Nutritional Requirements for 6-12 Month Olds.

General Timeline of Feeding Guidelines and Tips for Babies under 12 months

6 months: Exploration

  • Continue to breast and/or formula feed.
  • You can introduce new foods every 2-3 days to allow baby to acclimate to new textures and flavors, as well as to watch for adverse reactions.
  • Amount of food consumed may be minimal as your baby discovers food, plays with spoons and bowls, and learns to swallow rather than reflexively push food out of his mouth.
  • Food order of introduction is not critical.
  • Include iron-rich or iron-fortified foods.
  • Feed once or twice per day, about 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time. Graduate up to 2 to 3 small meals per day, of 2 to 4 tablespoons once baby is ready.
  • Feed when baby is slightly hunger, but not ravenous.  60 to 90 minutes after breastmilk/ formula may work well.
  • No need to add salt and sugar to your baby’s food.
  • Stop feeding when baby indicates she is finished.

7 to 8 months: Exploration and Flavor immersion

  • Continue to breast or formula feed.
  • Offer a variety of foods, including vegetable, fruit, meat, poultry, fish, egg, small amounts of diluted nut butters*, grains, and unsweetened yogurt and cheese (but no cow’s milk until after 1 year), in a texture and size your baby can handle.
  • Continue to repeat foods even if it seems your baby did not enjoy it the first few times.  Babies develop a liking for food over time and with multiple exposures.
  • Infants are open to many flavors. The wider the variety of foods and flavors offered on a repetitive basis, the increased likelihood of being a less picky eater in the future.
  • Advance texture of food as your infant is ready.
  • Encourage and explore self-feeding soft foods, such as banana and avocado. Your baby may not be able to self-feed yet, which is absolutely normal.
  • Begin teaching how to drink water from a cup.  Aim for no more than a couple ounces total for the day.
  • Feed 2-3 small meals, the size of baby’s fist, with optional nutritious snacks.
  • Continue to avoid adding salt and sugar.
  • Stop feeding when baby indicates she is finished.

* If there aren’t any food allergies in baby’s/your immediate family, then your little one is likely low risk for an allergy.  The current recommendation is to introduce all foods (including peanut butter, eggs, fish, soy, and other allergens) when your baby is developmentally ready for that texture, as early as 6 months.

8 to 10 months: Flavor immersion and Finger Foods

  • Continue breast or formula feeding.
  • Lumpy foods and advanced textures should be introduced before 10 months, as your baby is ready, to help prevent difficulty feeding later in childhood.
  • Provide soft, baby-size pieces of foods for self-feeding, such as small pieces of: soft cheese, toasted bread, tofu, beans, cooked pasta, steamed broccoli, roasted winter squash, soft cooked eggs, etc.  You should be able to ‘smush’ the food between your fingers.
  • Avoid foods that are choking hazards (see: Preventing Choking for more information)[
  • Include baby in family meals when able.
  • Begin offering soft combination table foods around 9 months, such as: casseroles, pasta with sauce, etc.
  • Make sure table foods are not laden with salt and sugar.
  • Stop feeding when baby indicates she is finished.

10 to 12 months: Finger foods and Family meals

  • Continue to breast or formula feed.
  • Continue offering a wide variety of foods.
  • Begin to structure family meal time (see: Family Meals for more information)
  • Begin providing fluids in a cup.
  • Continue to offer soft “smush-able” foods to help prevent choking.
  • Provide 3 to 4 small meals per day plus nutritious snacks.
  • Continue to avoid excessive salt, sugar, and fried foods.

12 + months: Regular eating and Bottle weaning

A mother who was planning on breastfeeding her baby may not know what to do when her baby will be spending days, weeks or even months in the NICU. While pumping for your NICU baby can be time consuming and challenging, it can be an important way for you to be involved with your baby’s care, and breast milk offers significant health benefits to your baby, especially if he is premature or ill. And even if your baby needs supplementation from formula or specialized human milk fortifier, he will still be getting the benefits of your breastmilk in any amount you can provide.

It is important to begin pumping right away for your baby. It typically takes between 2 and 5 days for your milk to come in.  Before this happens, your body makes colostrum; the yellow, thick ‘first milk’. This is nutrient-dense, packed with all sorts of good things such as immune factors, and sustains your baby until your milk comes in. You may only get a few drops of colostrum – this is normal!, but every bit is beneficial.

Healthy newborns typically eat 10 to 12 times per 24 hours – that’s every 2-3 hours.  This is normal as their bellies are very small, so they need to eat more frequently.  Your goal is to mimic the frequency of normal breastfeeding and establish your milk supply with pumping. Milk supply is typically based on a supply and demand relationship, so the more the breasts are stimulated and emptied, the more the body is signaled to make milk. The best way to set up your milk supply for your baby is to pump completely and frequently, at least 8-12 times per day for at least the first 3-4 weeks. Aim to pump at the same time each day so that your body knows to make milk at that time. Even if your baby is unable to eat much or any of your breast milk at the beginning, keep pumping consistently, as the first month is very important for setting up your supply. Establishing milk supply will enable you to be prepared if and when your baby is ready and able to nurse.

After the first month, you may be able to pump eight times per day and maintain an adequate milk supply for your growing baby. If your baby is able to be held while in the NICU, holding your baby skin-to-skin helps stimulate your milk production hormones, and is recommended before pumping. If you are unable to hold your baby, you can pump close by while you’re visiting in the NICU, look at pictures or videos of your baby, or even smell an article of their used clothing for extra stimulation while you pump. While it is normal to feel stressed when your baby is ill or in the NICU, try to find support through family and friends and NICU support staff, as stress can negatively impact milk supply. Also, taking care of yourself through good nutrition and hydration can help support your milk supply.

If your baby was born prematurely, the milk that you express is a little different than what is produced when babies are born at full term. It is much higher in protein and minerals, and contains different types of fat that are easy for him to digest.  You will not be getting as much volume because your baby’s tummy is very small (likely the size of a marble!). So if you are not getting a lot, do not fear! That is normal.

The hospital-grade electric breast pump is the most effective type of breast pump, and most moms find they’re able to get more milk when using a hospital grade pump. Electric breast pumps that pump both breasts at the same time are also effective, but for the exclusive pumper – even if your goal is to eventually nurse – a hospital grade pump is recommended and can typically be rented monthly from your hospital.

It is important to practice safely handling the pumped milk when you are transporting it to the hospital. Milk storage guidelines are different for premature or hospitalized babies, as these babies are more at risk for infection. Whenever possible, take your pump to the hospital to pump fresh milk for baby’s next feeding. It is important to discuss storage and transportation guidelines for pumped milk for your premature or ill baby with the NICU medical providers.

You will be spending a lot of time pumping. Try some of these things to make the best of it:

  • A hands free pumping bra can be very useful, or you can take an old sports bra and cut two slits in it to slip the flanges through. Then you have your hands free to grab some food, relax, or just pump without needing to hold on. 
  • Have snacks and water handy wherever you pump so you can stay nourished and fueled while you are sitting down.
  • Catch up on your favorite show or podcast while pumping! Enjoying some mindless entertainment can help give your brain a break during a stressful time.
  • Reach out to other new moms, especially NICU moms, for support and guidance, whether virtually or over the phone.
  • Close your eyes. The humm of the pump isn’t exactly the sound of ocean waves, but getting some rest when you can is important when you’re likely exhausted and not sleeping adequately.

Make sure to let the medical personnel at the hospital know you’d like to provide breastmilk for your baby.  Getting their support will be key to helping make your breastfeeding goals work. Many NICU’s have a lactation consultant on staff. Ask your baby’s nurse to meet with that person to help support you in a more personalized way.