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Expert recommendations for feeding infants and young children
Birth to 6 months
- Breastmilk is the optimal choice for infants under 6 months old.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that newborns be fed breastmilk exclusively for the first six months. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) recommend exclusive breastfeeding until around 6 months, but also advise that solid food (e.g., iron-fortified infant cereal) may be introduced between 4 to 6 months, if the baby is developmentally ready.
6 to 12 months
- Around 6 months, infants should be introduced to solid food, beginning with foods rich in iron and zinc such as fortified infant cereal. From 6 to 8 months, babies should be introduced to pureed or mashed foods and gradually transition to lumpy foods and soft finger foods.
- Between 8 to 12 months, babies may start eating minced, chopped foods and harder finger foods, including table foods. Encouraging babies to self-feed when ready is recommended.
- Optimally, breastfeeding should continue for at least 1 year. Infant formula is the only acceptable alternative to breastmilk for babies under 12 months old.
During this time, babies’ diets should include varied and positive exposures to the taste, flavors, and textures of fruits and vegetables. ANDrecommends against adding sugar, salt, or honey to babies’ food.
1 to 2 years
- Toddlers’ diets should help them transition to the family diet by supporting development of gross and fine motor skills, such as self-feeding, and preferences for the taste, flavors, and texture of table food. During this time, they should learn to enjoy the foods eaten by the rest of the family.
- For all children, a healthy diet should consist of a variety of fruits and vegetables every day and limited consumption of added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. The American Heart Association recommends against serving products with added sugar to children under age 2.
The WHO and AAP recommend that toddlers continue breastfeeding until age 2. Whole milk should replace infant formula at 12 months. The American College of Family Physicians and the AAP do not recommend serving toddler milk.