What's a proper diet for a baby starting to eat solid food?

Q: I just started my baby on solid food. Should I cut back the amount of breast milk she's drinking?

A: No. Breast milk or formula should still be your baby's main source of nutrition throughout the first year. Your baby's first foray into solids (between 4 and 6 months) is more about getting her used to chewing and swallowing food than providing any significant nutritional benefit. In fact, solid food should be given only after your baby has nursed or had a bottle, so your baby doesn't feel too full to drink as much as she needs.

Generally from 4 months to 1 year, your baby will take about 24 to 32 ounces of breast milk or formula per day; as she gets older, you should increase the amount and variety of solids she eats. Here are some general guidelines, but talk to your pediatrician if you have specific concerns about your baby's diet:

4-6 months• 1-2 teaspoons of rice cereal a day (mixed with breast milk or formula). As your baby gets used to solids, thicken the mixture by using a little more cereal (and less milk or formula) every week. After introducing rice, try oatmeal and barley.

6-8 months• 4-8 tablespoons of rice cereal per day (increase slowly as your baby grows).• A quarter cup each of fruit and vegetables per day spread out over two to three feedings. Try mild things like carrots, sweet potatoes, applesauce, and bananas.

8-12 months• Half a cup of cereal per day• Half a cup each of fruits and vegetables per day, spread out over three feedings. Try a more varied menu like peas, peaches, and pears.• A quarter cup per day of yogurt or a little cheese (less than an ounce).• A quarter cup per day of a protein, like beef, poultry, beans, or egg yolks (skip the whites; they can cause allergies in babies under 1). • Introduce pasta, Cheerios, and other finger foods.

As your baby adjusts to eating solids, know that there may be days when she's more interested in her peas and carrots than in the breast or bottle and, on the flip side, days when all she'll want to do is nurse. This is all normal as your baby begins to grow more independent, but for now she still needs her normal day's worth of breast milk or formula.

Originally published in Parents magazine, May 2004. Updated 2009.

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