Babies younger than a year have specific nutrition needs and restrictions that are much different from toddlers and young children. The first year of life is one of the most formative periods of life— especially the first six months.
It’s imperative that infants receive all of the nutrition they need, and also that they don’t receive any nutrition they don’t need. Babies under one year are not able to metabolize and digest a lot of foods that toddlers older than a year can. Here’s a quick look at what to feed babies under one year old.
Most experts will agree that breast milk is best for babies. Breast milk from a baby’s biological mother provides all of the necessary nutrients for development and protection against illnesses and infection. It even changes to fit the baby’s ever-changing needs, such as when they have a fever and as they get older. It’s so unique that it can’t be 100% replicated by formula.
It’s recommended that mothers breastfeed their babies for at least the first six months of life, but doing it for the first two years is even better. Every mother and baby is different, so not everyone does the same thing. Some mothers may keep breast milk in their toddler’s diet, such as by pumping and then giving it in a cup or mixing it in cereal.
Not all mothers can breastfeed their babies, due to medical issues, lactation issues, and extreme discomfort for both mother and baby. Fortunately, baby formula can provide almost all of the same nutrients as breast milk. Although it’s not individually tailored to each baby’s specific needs it still provides the nutrition that all babies need.
Some pediatricians may recommend both breast milk and formula for some babies. This can be because some mothers who wish to breastfeed may not produce enough milk for their babies. So instead of deterring these mothers from breastfeeding, the doctors may recommend both breastfeeding and formula feeding.
At around six months of age, babies begin to show signs that they’re ready for solid foods. These signs include:
- Ability to control their head and neck
- Bringing objects to their mouth
- Grasping small objects
- Sitting up (alone and with support)
- Swallowing food vs. pushing it back out
It’s recommended that parents avoid feeding their infants’ foods high in sugar and salt because food preferences develop early in life. You want to set your baby up for healthy eating habits, so introduce vegetables before fruits and other sweet and savory foods. You’ll also want to continue including nutrient-dense foods, such as fortified beans, cereals, and meats.
A peanut allergy is one of the most common allergies among children. Most babies can have peanut products after six months of age, but parents should be cautious of giving their babies peanut products if their baby has eczema or an egg allergy. These factors increase the risk of having a peanut allergy.
Babies six months and older can begin eating solid foods, but these “solid foods” still don’t require chewing. Babies can get teeth anywhere from three months to 12 months— and some may even be born with teeth— but it’s still not wise to give them completely solid foods. Hard solid foods should be avoided at all costs, while soft solid foods (such as grapes) can be cut into small pieces for teething babies.
Although babies in this age range don’t drink cow’s milk, some formula brands are cow milk-based. This doesn’t harm the majority of infants, but premature infants should avoid these formulas for the risk of developing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)— which can cause a life-threatening intestinal infection. Similac is an example of a baby formula that caused NEC in premature infants.
Babies in this age group should not have cow’s milk, honey, or juice. Before age one, babies aren’t able to properly digest cow’s milk, and having honey before age one can cause a serious bacterial infection called botulism. As for juice, it contains too much sugar (added and/or natural fruit sugars) for this age, and some parents even restrict it after age one.
Keep in mind that some babies will have specific needs, so as a parent it’s best to check with your baby’s pediatrician to determine what’s best for your baby. Also, read all ingredients carefully on all labels, especially if your baby has food sensitivities or allergies.