MS, RD, LDN, CSSD, CBS
Rachel holds a Master’s in Nutrition Communication from Tufts University and is also a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. She works as a nutrition and wellness coach with focuses on infant and maternal nutrition, and mindful eating.
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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 formula.2,3
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 birthweight.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 dietitians and lactation consultants for free! They’re here to help on our free to live chat from Monday – Friday 8am-8pm (EST), and Saturday – Sunday 8am-4pm (EST). Chat Now!
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 the repeated exposure to all different foods, your little one will get what they need.7
Food sources rich in 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 with eating, as well as for your baby’s oral motor skill level.7
Iron is most easily absorbed from red meat, but also found in spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables (swiss chard, beet and collard greens, bok choy, 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!
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 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 Vitamin C Matters for Babies, Tots, and Mama
Good 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
Good sources include salmon, fortified whole milk, fortified milk alternatives, sardines, tuna, 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.
Read more: Why Vitamin D Matters for Babies, Tots, and Mama
Focus on foods like low-mercury oily fish (salmon and sardines); algae (seaweed, nori, and kelp); canola and soy bean oil; walnuts, chia seeds, and ground flax seeds).16
Read more: Why Omega-3s Matter for Babies Tots and Mama
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
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
Read more: Meal Plan for 12 Month Old Toddler
Goal: Use snack time to incorporate a wide variety of the vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts/seeds (or nut butters and ground seeds), and dairy; and even lean meat, poultry, and seafood.22
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 American 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
Goal: Offer foods 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
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 dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday – Friday 8am-8pm (EST), and Saturday – Sunday 8am-4pm (EST). Chat Now!
Read more about the experts that help write our content!
Introducing Solids: first foods and advancing textures
The pros and cons of cups, sippy cups, and straws for babies and toddlers
What supplements or vitamins should I be giving my baby?
What supplements or vitamins should I be giving my toddler?
Food Safety for Babies and Toddlers
How to avoid giving my toddler too much salt and too much sugar
Choosing milk and non-dairy milks for your baby and toddler
How Do I Introduce Milk to My Toddler?
1. Berthold Koletzko, Basic concepts in nutrition: Nutritional needs of children and adolescents, e-SPEN, the European e-Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism, Volume 3, Issue 4 2008. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1751499108000310?via%3Dihub
2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Working Together: Breastfeeding and Solid Foods. Accessed 1 September 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Working-Together-Breastfeeding-and-Solid-Foods.aspx
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How Much and How Often to Breastfeed. Accessed 16 August 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/breastfeeding/how-much-and-how-often.html
4. Holt K., Woolridge N. Bright Futures: Nutrition Supervision, third edition. American Academy of Pediatrics. 2011 https://brightfutures.aap.org/Bright%20Futures%20Documents/BFNutrition3rdEditionSupervision.pdf
5. Grimm KA, Kim SA, Yaroch AL, Scanlon KS. Fruit and vegetable intake during infancy and early childhood. Pediatrics. 2014 Sep;134 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S63-9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25183758/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25183758/
6. Harris G, Mason S. Are There Sensitive Periods for Food Acceptance in Infancy?. Curr Nutr Rep. 2017;6(2):190-196. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5438435/
7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What, When, and How to Introduce Solid Foods. Accessed 3 September 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/foods-and-drinks/when-to-introduce-solid-foods.html
7. National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Iron. Accessed 13 September 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/
8. Hallberg L, Brune M, Rossander L. The role of vitamin C in iron absorption. Int J Vitam Nutr Res Suppl. 1989;30:103-8. PMID: 2507689. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/73/1/93/4729737. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/73/1/93/4729737
9. American Academy of Pediatrics. Vitamin D and Iron Supplements for Babies: AAP Recommendations. Accessed 8 September 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Vitamin-Iron-Supplements.aspx
10. National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Zinc. Accessed 13 September 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/
11. National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin C. Accessed 14 September 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/
12. National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin A. Accessed 14 September 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/
13. National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin D. Accessed 13 September 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
14. Casey CF, Slawson DC, Neal LR. VItamin D supplementation in infants, children, and adolescents. Am Fam Physician. 2010 Mar 15;81(6):745-8. PMID: 20229973. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20229973/
15. National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Accessed 13 September 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/
16. UNICEF. Feeding your Baby at 6-12 Months. Accessed 8 September 2021. https://www.unicef.org/parenting/food-nutrition/feeding-your-baby-6-12-months
17. American Academy of Pediatrics. Starting Solid Foods. Accessed 8 September 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Starting-Solid-Foods.aspx
18. USDA Women Infants and Children. Guidelines for Feeding Healthy Infants. Accessed 23 July 2021. https://wicworks.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/document/Guidelines_for_Feeding_Healthy_Infants_Job_Aid.pdf
19. American Academy of Pediatrics. Is Your Baby Hungry or Full? Responsive Feeding Explained. Accessed 14 September 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Is-Your-Baby-Hungry-or-Full-Responsive-Feeding-Explained.aspx
20. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How Much and How Often to Feed. Accessed 9 September 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/foods-and-drinks/how-much-and-how-often.html
21. American Academy of Pediatrics. Choosing Healthy Snacks for Kids. Accessed 14 September 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Choosing-Healthy-Snacks-for-Children.aspx
22. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf
23. Redsell, SA, Slater, V, Rose, J, Olander, EK, Matvienko-Sikar, K. Barriers and enablers to caregivers’ responsive feeding behaviour: A systematic review to inform childhood obesity prevention. Obesity Reviews. 2021; 22:e13228. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/obr.13228