Here, experts offer guidance for keeping your baby well nourished as he moves toward toddlerhood.
Your baby’s nutritional needs change as he grows, as does the way he eats—how often, which foods, how he’s fed. One thing that doesn’t change: Nutrition remains a top priority and essential to his healthy development. As his first birthday approaches, his self-feeding skills are improving and his relationship to the bottle or breast is likely changing. Here, experts offer guidance for keeping your baby well nourished as he moves toward toddlerhood.
Your little one is probably ready to give up the bottle entirely. By their first birthdays, many babies are. In fact, switching from a bottle before age 1 makes it less likely that your toddler will come to rely on the bottle as a comfort object, a habit that gets harder to break over time. Cutting out bottles also reduces the likelihood of tooth decay (especially for babies who go to sleep with a bottle) and middle ear infections.
Consider combining weaning with introducing a cup. If you’re thinking about weaning as your baby heads toward the 12-month mark, it’s convenient to switch from bottles to cups at the same time. Many moms wean their toddlers right from breast to cup and never use bottles.
Breast milk or formula should be what your baby consumes through the first year. They contain important nutrients he needs. If you’re formula feeding, after your baby turns 1, you can switch to a toddler milk drink that has important fatty acids such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
Go ahead and encourage self-feeding. It’s messy, but it’s good practice now that your baby’s fine motor skills and coordination allow him to grab and control objects. You might start by feeding your baby most of his meal, then putting out some finger foods for him to play with (and eat) while you eat your food.
It’s OK to introduce foods linked with allergies now. It used to be recommended that eggs and peanut products be delayed until after the first birthday. But there’s no evidence that this practice leads to fewer allergies. (In fact, some research shows that it can have the opposite effect.) At this point, your child has already been introduced to basic foods like cereal, vegetables, fruits, and meats. The exception is for babies with health issues or those who have had an allergic reaction in the past; they should only be given eggs or peanut products under medical supervision.
He’s still not ready for some foods. Your baby is used to swallowing without having to chew a great deal. Don’t feed him hard foods like raw veggies, hard candies, or firm meats; in addition, especially avoid those foods in rounded shapes, like grapes, baby carrots, or hot dogs. Peanut butter, if it’s not spread very thinly and popcorn are also choking hazards.