Baby Feeding Guide: 9 to 12 Months Old

Is your baby in the delicate stage between first starting solids and fully weaning? We’ve compiled a 9-month-old to 12-month-old feeding guide that will help you manage mealtime with ease.

Babies between 9 and 12 months old are often in a transitional feeding stage: They've begun eating solids (perhaps enthusiastically so!), but a big source of their nutrition is still breast milk or formula. Thankfully, it's relatively easy to come up with fun, simple meals that provide plenty of nutrition and opportunities to explore new tastes and textures. Here's information about the best foods to offer, tips for how to introduce new foods, and some creative meal ideas for older babies.

Best Foods for 9- to 12-Month-Old 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 positively influence a child's willingness to try new foods later on. So go ahead: Offer unique flavors and flavor combinations that pack a nutritional punch.

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), and red (tomatoes, red bell peppers, raspberries).

Although it may be tempting to count a cup of juice as a fruit serving, the beverage isn't as nutritious as you might think as it often contains added sugar and zero fiber. Plus, if juice takes the place of 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. Ask your pediatrician for guidelines on how much juice to serve your baby, if any.

Grains can also be a part of an older baby's diet. Many 9- to 12-month-olds readily eat whole-grain baby cereals, cooked noodles, bread, and rice. Just aim for whole-grain options when possible to boost the nutritional value.

Though experts say that it isn't time to start offering cow's milk as a drink, dairy can certainly be on the menu. Consider including unsweetened full-fat yogurt and cheeses like fresh whole-milk ricotta or cottage cheese (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 texture. You'll want to continue to avoid choking hazards like grapes, nuts, raisins, hard candy, and marshmallows, but purees and mashes aren't the only options. Also, while prepackaged finger foods are easy to find, use them sparingly to avoid the extra sugar and preservatives.

mother feeding baby

How to Introduce New Foods to Older Babies

If your baby is partial to purees, 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 feed themselves safe finger foods like soft, steamed cauliflower florets, slices of well-cooked egg omelet, or spears of ripe banana.

As you add new foods to your baby's diet, continue watching for allergies, as you did when your baby first started on solids. Your baby will continue to make funny faces as they experiment with new tastes and textures, and they'll inevitably reject some foods along the way. Be patient: If couscous doesn't go over well one night, it might next week.

It also helps to adopt the motto "let it slide." Babies this age eat when they're hungry and don't have food hang-ups yet. Keep it that way by letting your child set the pace. Force-feeding babies may actually hinder their ability to tell when they're full, says Massey, which could lead to overeating as they grow up. Remember that babies have tiny stomachs, and even a few tablespoons of food at any meal may make them feel stuffed.

Creative Meal Ideas for 9 to 12 Months

As a parent, you get to build the foundation of your child's eating habits. Making healthy, tasty, and convenient meals can set them up for a lifetime of healthy eating habits. Need some help coming up with 9-month-old baby food, 10-month-old baby food, 11-month-old baby food, or 12-month-old baby food ideas? We've rounded up breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas that are easy to make and full of nutrition.

Breakfast ideas

  • Oatmeal: Start with any unsweetened oats, and make them 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 to make this 9- to 12-month-old baby food, and consider adding a bit of wheat germ for a health boost. For some variety, top with pureed fruit—and avoid sugary (and non-nutritious) syrup.
  • Eggs: Add a tablespoon of low-sodium cottage cheese and scramble the eggs. You can also mix in mashed tofu or a softened vegetable.

Lunch ideas

  • Grilled cheese: Use whole-wheat bread, shredded low-sodium cheese (which melts easily), and a little unsalted butter. Cut the sandwich into sticks or bites before serving. To introduce new textures, add a thinly sliced avocado.
  • Yogurt: Stick to unsweetened full-fat yogurt, and add jarred or home-steamed fresh fruit or vegetables for flavor.
  • Sandwich: If making the sandwich with nut butter, spread only a thin layer (too much can be a choking hazard). Your baby might also enjoy sandwiches with cooked egg yolks, smashed avocado, hummus, or cream cheese.
  • Soup: Boil broth with soft veggies and noodles. Serve lukewarm—not hot—and only a little at a time. For some variety, add mashed beans, well-shredded meats, or shredded cheese.
  • Macaroni and cheese: Try making this kid-friendly dish from scratch: Toss soft, whole-wheat noodles with butter and shredded cheese. Add color and nutrients by stirring in pureed green vegetables (such as peas, spinach, or broccoli) or mixing with mashed beans or shredded meat.

Dinner ideas

  • Baked potato: Remove a baked sweet or white potato from its skin and mash in butter, cheese, and soft veggies. Alternatively, you can put the potato through a food processor with veggies, cheese, butter, and broth for a smoother texture.
  • Pasta/rice/couscous: Toss these grains with a simple sauce. If you're using a store-bought sauce, use it sparingly or look for a low-sodium option with no added sugar. Cooked meats or soft steamed veggies, such as zucchini and squash, can round out the meal.
  • The family dinner: Don't be intimidated—if there aren't any potential allergens or choking hazards, your family's meal is fair game for your baby. Simply run their portion through a food processor to make it into a mash or offer baby-safe bites. The result doesn't need to be perfectly smooth for older babies; in fact, introducing different textures can be a big hit!
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