Baby Food & Snack Guide by Age & Stage
Starting solids can be an overwhelming time. Just when you’ve found your groove with breast or bottle feeding – BOOM – time for food! A whole new stage of life with an important learning curve. Not to fear, we’ve got you! Keep on reading for your go-to baby food & snack guide by age and stage.
Babies will begin to show signs of readiness for starting food close to 6 months of age. Signs to look for include:
Baby should be meeting these prior to starting solids. The majority of babies will show these signs around the time they turn 6 months old. If your baby is not showing these signs and/or you have questions, reach out to your paediatrician for personalized guidance on when to begin offering solids.
The first time you offer your baby food can feel nerve-wracking! What do I offer? How do I feed them? How much do I feed them? How often do I feed them?
When offering food for the first time, know that you have options. Some may choose to offer iron-fortified baby cereal such as oatmeal while others may choose a fruit or vegetable. In general, babies often are well-accepting of fruits given their sweetness. Their breastmilk or formula that they’ve been eating up until this point is sweet as well so it’s a natural next step for them. Some families may offer 2-3 food options. Choose what you feel comfortable with.
If your baby is 6 months old and sitting with little to no support, baby-led weaning (BLW) may be an option. This involves offering stick-shaped pieces of food that babies will pick up and eat themselves.
If you prefer a more traditional approach, you can offer pureed or mashed foods by spoon. Watching your baby’s cues can help to inform you when they want more food or are finished. Feeding cues for “more” include:
When your baby is showing signs of being done, it is time to end the meal – regardless of how much or little they ate. Feeding cues for “done” may look like:
Number of meals: 1-2 meals
When starting solids, offering one meal per day is perfect. There is lots of learning going on (and not a lot of actual eating!) in the first few weeks of offering food. This is normal and expected. As your little one begins to learn and build on their eating skills, the amount of food they eat will increase. Around 7 months is often a good time to increase to 2 meals per day.
Feeding skills: Palmar grasp
Palmar grasp is when a baby wraps their hand around an object (think: grabbing a stick). This skill allows baby to hold stick-shaped foods as well as spoons. Babies at this age generally don’t have the skill set to scoop with a spoon yet. What you can do is fill the spoon and then hand it to the baby to self-feed with if desired.
Textures (traditional method): Purees to Mashes
Starting with purees is the first transition into food textures for most babies. Choosing a smooth blend when starting can help ease your baby into this new texture. You can choose some that are very thin consistencies like Little Bellies fruit purees and others that are thicker blends like Little Bellies fruit and oat smoothies. After a few weeks of offering these, take steps towards offering mashed textures that have some lumps.
Number of meals: 2-3 meals
As your baby is becoming accustomed to eating solids twice per day, work up to 3 eating opportunities as able. This may be breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For others, offering 2 meals and 1 snack may work better with their schedule.
Feeding skills: Pincer grasp
At this age, babies are evolving their pincer grasp. You will see various stages in between palmar and pincer. At times they will pick up toys or pieces of food with their thumb and a few fingers. They will gain the skill gradually to be able to pick up cubes of food with their thumb and pointer finger (pincer grasp).
Textures: Soft cubes
With a pincer grasp comes a new opportunity! Baby will have the ability to pick up small pieces of food such as melt-in-the-mouth puffs like the Little Bellies range of TASTY TEXTURES for 7+ months, designed for safe self-feeding. Foods at this time should be fork-tender and easily mashable. Small cubes of foods that are well-cooked allow your baby to safely self-feed.
Number of meals: 3 meals, 0-1 snacks
By 10 months, your little one will be able to eat 3 meals per day. Around this time some families will find their baby is dropping milk feeds (breast or bottle) and may also need an added snack. When offering a snack, ensure you are providing a well-balanced snack that includes fat or protein along with a healthy carbohydrate-rich food.
Feeding skills: Skilled chewing, increasing independence
Chewing is becoming much easier for your baby as they are incorporating rotary jaw movements. You may notice your baby wanting to be even more involved in the feeding process such as scooping food with their spoon.
Textures: Cubes and chopped pieces of food
Your baby is becoming more skilled at eating pieces of food thanks to those new jaw movements. This allows you to serve foods that vary in texture such as shredded meats, pieces of cheese, diced grapes, and meltable solids. Snacks-wise, you can now move up to more complex shapes and textures like the Little Bellies MORE TO EXPLORE range of snacks for 10+ months.
Number of meals: 3 meals, 2-3 snacks
As your now toddler is dropping bottles or breastfeeds and food becomes primary nutrition, snacks will fill in the gaps. As previously mentioned, we want to ensure these snacks are plenty nutritious! Offer foods rich in fibre, iron, and healthy fats while limiting those high in added sugars.
Feeding skills: Mastering fine motor skills
Your little eater is now a pro! They are eating a wide range of textures, shapes, and sizes of foods. Between taking manageable bites of food and chewing more thoroughly, more doors for food options open. They’re also gradually becoming more skilled (and less messy!) with utensils. As they are improving with lip closure while chewing and swallowing, less spillage will occur too.
Textures: Loads of options! Have a look at the many delicious options in the Little Bellies toddler range – crackers, biscuits, dried fruit and puffs.
At this stage, there are much less limits to what your toddler can eat. Many family foods can be provided with minor or zero modifications. Choking hazards remain the primary limitations until they approach age 4. Some of these hazards include nuts, whole grapes/berries, marshmallows, popcorn, large apple slices, spoonfuls of nut butter, and others.
Author: Nicole Lattanzio, RDN, CSP, IBCLC @infant.nutritionist
Owner, The Baby Dietitian PLLC