Baby Feeding Guide for 9- to 12-Month-Olds

As your baby nears their first birthday, they are entering that delicate stage between just starting solids and fully weaning. Our guide will help you manage meals and ensure they get the nutrition they need.

Babies between 9 and 12 months old are typically in a transitional feeding stage. They've begun eating solids (perhaps enthusiastically so!), but still derive much of their nutrition from breast milk or formula. Fortunately, it's easy to come up with fun, healthy meals that provide plenty of nutrients along with opportunities to sample new tastes and textures. Here is our expert guide on what foods to offer, tips on introducing new foods, and ways to cook creative meals for older babies.

Foods for Older Babies

Just like adults, babies need a wide variety of nutrients. While babies who are 9 to 12 months old are still getting the bulk of their nutrition from breast milk or formula, the foods you offer them during meals should still be both nutritious and delicious. After all, research shows that early exposure to varied flavors can make a child more willing to try new foods later on. So go ahead: Offer unique flavors and flavor combinations that pack a nutritional punch.

The meals you give them should also include plenty of plant or animal protein, zinc, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D. A good guide for feeding older babies is to offer foods that encourage them to "eat the rainbow." Serve lots of different colors, including green (peas, green beans, spinach, asparagus, zucchini), orange (sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, carrot), yellow (squash, bananas), purple (blueberries, eggplant, purple onion), and red (tomatoes, red bell peppers, raspberries).

Although it may be tempting to count a cup of juice as a serving of fruit, the beverage isn't as nutritious as you might think—it has zero fiber and often contains added sugar. And if juice replaces breast milk or formula, your child may not get the fat and protein they need, says dietitian Lauren D. Massey of Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville. Juice is not recommended for children under age 1.

In addition to fruits and vegetables, grains can also be a healthy part of your older baby's diet. Many 9- to 12-month-olds enjoy eating whole-grain baby cereals, cooked noodles, bread, and rice. Just aim for whole-grain options when possible to boost the nutritional value.

Dairy can also be on the menu (though it's too soon to offer cow's milk as a drink). You can give baby unsweetened full-fat yogurt, cottage cheese, and cheeses like fresh whole-milk ricotta (just make sure it's low-sodium and pasteurized).

Last, but not least, don't forget to serve extra protein, which can be in the form of animal protein (such as eggs, chicken, beef, or fish) or plant protein (like beans, tofu, or creamy nut butter).

As your baby's eating skills progress, you can start offering foods with more and more texture. As you add more foods to your older baby's diet, continue to avoid choking hazards like grapes, nuts, raisins, hard candy, hot dogs, and marshmallows, but purees and mashes aren't the only options. While prepackaged finger foods are certainly convenient, don't load up on these, as they often have extra sugar and preservatives.

mother feeding baby
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How to Introduce New Foods

If your baby is partial to purées, you can make mealtime easy by using their favorite jarred or homemade baby food in innovative ways. For example, instead of serving pureed peas alone, you might stir them into mashed potatoes or cooked pasta. Jarred peaches can be swirled into unsweetened yogurt, and pears can become a pancake topping—you get the idea.

Your little one is also likely interested in trying more finger foods at this age. You don't have to put the spoons away—in fact, you can try giving your baby utensil practice by offering them a pre-loaded spoon to self-feed—but consider giving your older baby lots of opportunities to use their fingers by giving them safe foods to grab like soft, steamed cauliflower florets, slices of well-cooked egg omelet, or spears of ripe banana. These foods will broaden their tastes and allow them to practice their pincer grasp.

As you add new foods to your baby's diet, continue watching for allergies, as you did when your baby first started on solids. Every time you add new foods to your baby's diet, keep an eye out for allergies, just as you did when they first started solids. It's perfectly normal, of course, to see your child make funny faces as they experience new tastes and textures, and they'll inevitably reject some foods along the way.

Try to be patient: If couscous doesn't go over well tonight, it might next week. It can also help to make "let it slide" your motto. Little ones eat when they're hungry and don't have food hang-ups yet. Keep it that way by letting them set the pace. If you force-feed them, it may hinder their ability to tell when they're full, says Massey—and that could lead to overeating as they grow up. Remember: Babies have tiny stomachs, and can quickly feel stuffed.

Creative Meal Ideas for 9- to 12-Month-Olds

As a parent, you get to build the foundation of your child's eating habits. Making healthy, tasty, convenient meals can set them up for a lifetime of healthy eating habits. Need some help coming up with age-appropriate meal ideas? These nutritious dishes will carry them throughout the day.

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal: Make a bowl of unsweetened oats with breast milk, formula, whole milk, or water. Stir in banana slices and jarred or home-steamed fruit, such as pears or apples.
  • Pancakes or waffles: Use a whole-grain mix and consider adding wheat germ for a health boost. For some variety, top with puréed fruit (just avoid sugary, non-nutritious syrups).
  • Eggs: Scramble them with a tablespoon of low-sodium cottage cheese. You can also mix in mashed tofu or a softened vegetable.

Lunch

  • Grilled cheese: Use whole-wheat bread, shredded low-sodium cheese (which melts easily), and a little unsalted butter. For texture, add a thinly sliced avocado. Cut into sticks or bites before serving.
  • Yogurt: Add jarred or steamed fresh fruit or vegetables to unsweetened full-fat yogurt.
  • Sandwich: Try one with cooked egg yolks, hummus, cream cheese, or mashed avocado. If using nut butter, spread only a thin layer (too much can be a choking hazard).
  • Soup: Boil broth with soft veggies and noodles. For variety, add mashed beans, well-shredded meats, or shredded cheese. Serve lukewarm, in small spoonfuls.
  • Macaroni and cheese: Toss soft, whole-wheat noodles with butter and shredded cheese. Add color and nutrients by stirring in puréed green vegetables (such as peas, spinach, or broccoli), mashed beans, or shredded meat.

Dinner

  • Baked potato: Remove a baked sweet or white potato from its skin and mash in butter, cheese, and soft veggies. For an even smoother texture, put the potato in a food processor with veggies, cheese, butter, and broth.
  • Pasta/rice/couscous: Toss any of these grains with a simple homemade sauce. If you prefer store-bought, look for a low-sodium option with no added sugar. Cooked meats or soft steamed vegetables such as zucchini or squash can round out the meal.
  • Family dinner: If there aren't any potential allergens or choking hazards, your own meal is fair game for your baby. Simply run their portion through a food processor to make a mash or offer baby-safe bites. It doesn't need to be perfectly smooth; textures can be fun for older babies, too!
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