Month 12 Worry: What Does My Baby Need to Eat Now?
The most common medical concern for parents of babies this age
What Parents Should Know
At ages 6 to 12 months, the calories that a baby gets from breast milk or formula are decreasing and being replaced by a wider variety of nutrients in solid foods. For example, two servings (2 tablespoons) of iron-fortified infant cereal a day meets your child’s iron requirements. Meats and table foods provide protein and necessary fats. Fruits and vegetables provide a wide range of vitamins and nutrients and calcium needs are fulfilled with formula, breast milk as well as cheeses and yogurt.
When to eat? At 1 year of age, toddlers start on the five-meal-a-day plan. Typical toddler meal offerings are:
- Morning snack
- Afternoon snack
Note that no evening or night feedings are physiologically necessary. These meals are notoriously variable. The big meal of the day may be the morning snack, and toddlers may not be very hungry for lunch or dinner like we’d expect them to be. I tell parents that one good meal per day is the expectation, and their job is to balance out the diet as best as they can over time.
What to eat? The most common mistake I see here is too few fresh fruits and (more commonly) veggies. Catering to a toddler’s tastes or whims is usually a bad idea, as well. I’ll occasionally hear, “All he wants to eat is macaroni and cheese, so that’s what I end up giving him.” Going back to the infant pureed veggies is a nice trick that works for many parents. Pureed carrots as a dip with unsalted bread sticks is a fun toddler hors d’oeuvre. Pouring a jar of pureed veggies into pasta sauce is another way to hide them in the diet.
How much to offer? Toddler portion sizes should be about one-third of an adult serving. Tricks to estimate are to divide a child size plate into four quadrants. Each one should hold the right amount of vegetables, starches, and meats. The fourth quadrant can be reserved for a second vegetable or a special treat at the end of the meal. Another trick is to aim for the size of your toddler’s palm.
What about milk? It’s time to recalibrate your serving size expectations again! Where your infant was recently taking 20 to 24 ounces of formula daily before her first birthday, now we should expect half that volume per day of whole milk. Interestingly, whole milk has more than twice the calcium content as infant formula. So two 6-ounce servings of milk per day will do the trick, even if your child takes in no other calcium source—which is unlikely.
Keep in mind this measurement conversion chart:
- 1 tsp = 5 ml
- 1 tbsp = 3 tsp
- 1 ounce = 2 tbsp
- 8 oz = 1 cup
- Typical stage one infant food jar = 4 ounces
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