Baby Feeding Schedule

A simple baby feeding schedule that tell you what to feed a baby and when, and how to prepare those foods in your own kitchen.

For the first six months of a baby's life, breast milk or formula will do nicely. After that, things become a bit more complex; the child needs food of a solid nature. If you take pride in feeding your family a healthy selection of home-cooked meals, soups in a crockpot, pies from scratch, vegetables fresh-picked from your garden, why then would you nourish your infant from little glass jars packed with preservatives? (Of course, if you have every take-out in town on speed-dial and your kids think that

moo gu gai pan and pizza are two of the basic food groups, read no further.)

Either breast milk or formula are the main foods that will nourish the baby for the first year. For everything else, here's the timetable. The baby's around 6 months, weighs 12 pounds or more, can sit with help, does the little turtle thing when placed on stomach, sucks on everything: offer cereal, preferably starting with rice, moistened with breast milk or formula. Don't feed cereal in the bottle with milk. This is a time when she's learning how to manage her tongue; she needs the practice so, shortly, she can tell you "No!". In fact, don't think she hates the food when it rolls right back out; if it's really gross or she's had enough, you'd be wearing it. Bread crust or bagels, well-toasted and then chilled, will both taste good and feel great on those gums sore from teething.

At 7 to 8 months, start on vegetables...pureed or strained green beans, peas, squash, sweet or white potatoes. Don't add salt or other seasoning and use either fresh or frozen; canned vegetables contain salt and sometimes other additives that baby doesn't need. Hold off on spinach, beets and carrots until 9 months; they have nitrates that can't be digested until that age.

Non-citrus fruit juice is a tasty addition to, but not a substitute for, milk. Dilute with 2 parts of water at first, or use juices made prepared specifically for babies (these are pure and pesticide-free). Avoid citrus juices until 1 year of age; little babies can have allergic reactions to them.

Once the veggies are well-received, begin fruits, such as apples, peaches, pears or plums. Just preheat the oven to 350 degrees, wash the fruit and poke a few holes in the skin and bake with a little water. When it's tender, it's done. Once the mashed fruit is going down with no problem, introduce uncooked mashed fruit to improve chewing skills. No need to sweeten and, most particularly, never add honey or corn syrup to anything. These are not safe for babies under 1 year; they may contain botulism spores that infant digestive systems cannot destroy.

At 8 months, you can add hard-boiled egg yolks, cottage cheese, and plain low-fat yogurt to the menu. Avoid egg whites due to possible allergic reactions; mash the yolk with formula and/or cereal. You can mix a little fruit with the yogurt, but don't buy commercial, high-sugar mixtures with their preservatives. Meats can be introduced at this time also, starting with pureed chicken, then beef. Consider using tofu or tempeh instead of meat; it'll provide necessary proteins and vitamin B12, but is

very digestible. Avoid pork; it's a bit rich for tiny systems to handle. Be sure to remove bones (no kidding?), skin, fat and cartilage. Cook red meat to an internal temperature of 150 degrees F, chicken to 160 degrees F. Introduce one new food a week to gage allergic reactions. When you've found a few that do well, try tasty mixtures, like potatoes, meats, and veggies.

At 10 months, babies become little piggies and they need a lot more food...milk, cereals, fruits, vegetables, meats. Offer them plain cooked pasta that they can handle on their own; bread sticks, crackers, and hard, dry toast. They can eat some table food, like mashed spuds or a slice of fruit, small pieces of soft meats. By 12 months, they should be eating just about everything the family eats.

Preparing baby food saves money and isn't that difficult. A few things to remember: use only sterilized, not just washed forks, blenders, sieves, and containers. Don't use wooden utensils or cutting boards; germs can lurk in them. Steam or microwave foods rather than boiling to retain vitamins and minerals. Put about an ounce of prepared foods in ice cube trays, freeze, and store cubes in air-tight freezer bags, and use within 2 months. These "fast foods" travel to the baby-sitter's or grandma's very easily, and can be heated in the microwave if you're very, very careful. Let the food sit for a moment and then stir thoroughly to remove any hot spots; test on your own lip before serving. Do not try to save leftovers from the baby's dish. Saliva from her spoon will contaminate the food even if it's refrigerated. Be patient with your baby; some things just don't taste as good as others. if a particular fruit, vegetable or meat is rejected today, she may love it next week. Avoid feeding small stuff like popcorn, hot dogs, nuts, seeds, raisins, etc., even if she fusses for them. Little people choke on things like that.

Don't stress yourself too much; this is pretty much the way many generations of pre-Gerber babies were fed. You don't need to be a master chef or even a good cook. A baby diet is not exactly haute cuisine. But if you want to be a bit more creative than mashed spuds or pureed carrots, check your local library. One excellent book just out, "The Well-Fed Baby", by O. Robin Sweet and Thomas A Bloom, has everything from soups to puddings.

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