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Categories > Parenting > Newborn/infant care

Table talk
Making mealtimes work


What’s off limits?
What’s off limits?

  • cow’s milk, eggs, citrus or honey before age 1
  • peanuts, peanut butter, fish or shellfish before age 3
  • choking hazards like whole grapes, hot dogs, hard candy, raisins, popcorn, raw carrots, nuts or large pieces of meat before age 3


Should you junk the juice?
Should you junk the juice?

You may give your baby some fruit juice after age 6 months, but it’s not a beverage your baby needs. Even 100 percent juice contains little of whole fruit’s nutrients and fiber, and some juices contain more sugar and calories than soda. Drinking too much juice contributes to diarrhea, tooth decay, excess weight and obesity and diminishes your child’s appetite for healthier fare. If you give your child juice, limit intake to 4 ounces or less a day and avoid juice drinks or powdered drink mixes. Use a cup—never a bottle—to serve juice.


Q&A: Learn more about breastfeeding
Q&A: Learn more about breastfeeding

Q. For how long should I breastfeed?

A. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life and continued breastfeeding for at least the first year and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child.

Q. As my baby eats more solid food, will she nurse less?

A. Probably, but for the remainder of the first year, breast milk or formula still provides a good share of needed nutrients.

Q. Can I breastfeed part time?

A. Of course. When and how you wean is up to you and your baby. Many mothers who return to work continue to nurse in the mornings and evenings.

Once beyond those first weeks of round-the-clock feedings, making sure your baby had the proper nutrition was easy or at least uncomplicated. Breast milk or formula was all baby needed for the first six months of life. Over the next year to 18 months, though, expect a bit more adventure on the feeding front. Introducing solids, trying out table foods and weaning can leave many parents unsure about their little one’s nutrition. Starting good habits early helps set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating.

Try some of these tips when starting solids:

  • Offer one new food at a time. Use single-ingredient foods and wait a few days to watch for signs of allergy (rash, diarrhea, increased gas or fussiness) before trying another.
  • Use a spoon. Don’t put cereal or food in your baby’s bottle. This can cause babies to become overweight and doesn’t teach them to eat solids.
  • Pay attention to cues baby is full. Your baby may turn away from the spoon, lean backward or refuse to open his or her mouth. Resist trying to force another bite.
  • Keep trying new tastes and textures. At about 8 months, your baby’s probably ready for chunkier and coarser foods that require more chewing, such as mashed potatoes, yogurt, some dry cereals, light crackers, cottage cheese, shredded cheese, small pieces of chicken, ripe banana, well-cooked pasta and well-cooked or canned fruits and vegetables. You may also choose to fork-mash, cut up or grind whatever food the rest of the family is eating.

Making mealtimes work

During your child’s second year, his or her eating habits will evolve to be more like your own. Draw the high chair up to the table to join the rest of the family and try some of these strategies:

  • Establish a routine. Offer three meals and two to three snacks a day on a regular schedule so your child learns to expect food at certain times. Don’t allow eating on demand all day long.
  • Accept a missed meal. Toddlers may skip meals from time to time simply because they’re not hungry. Resist the temptation to keep offering something else. Don’t push food on a child who isn’t hungry.
  • Allow some control. Don’t make mealtimes a power struggle. You decide what healthy foods to offer, and your child decides which to eat, how much to eat and whether to eat at all.
  • Start the sippy cup. Offer breast milk, formula, water, juice or whole milk (after age 1) in a trainer cup with a lid and spout. It may take several weeks before the cup becomes more than a new toy, but using a cup helps improve hand-to-mouth coordination and can pave the way for weaning.
  • Use whole milk. Continue to breastfeed if you wish, but if you use cow’s milk after age 1, opt for whole milk instead of lower-fat versions until age 2.
  • Be persistent with new foods. Children often need at least 10 exposures to a new food before they’ll accept it. So keep offering broccoli.
  • Limit sweets and empty calories. Little tummies can only hold so much, so serve foods packed with the nutrients they need.

Remember to set a good example. Your baby will develop and model many food preferences and habits after your own.