When your baby begins eating puréed peaches and avocados, she’ll naturally cut back on nursing or bottle-feeding. “Parents need to pay attention to diet as this happens,” says Kathleen Reidy, Dr.P.H., R.D., co-author and investigator of Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Rather than focusing on precise amounts of nutrients, make sure your baby is getting the right combination of foods.”
One of the most important nutrients for infants to get through food is iron. Your baby is born with enough stored iron to satisfy her body’s needs for 4 to 6 months, but after that, it must get replenished. “Iron is critical for healthy growth and cognitive function,” says Reidy. According to the latest FITS report, 12 percent of infants ages 6 to 11 months old aren’t getting enough.
Iron-fortified infant cereal is an excellent source of this nutrient and provides 41 percent of the iron in the diets of 6- to 11-month-olds. (Iron-fortified whole-grain cereals, such as barley and oatmeal, are nutritionally superior to rice cereal.) Another good source is meat (puréed or from a jar).
Babies also need fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Not just for vitamins (like A, B and C) that promote immune health and cell growth, but also to encourage your baby to eat plenty of produce later in life. “This period of infancy is critical for flavor preference development,” says Reidy.
Around 30 percent of 6- to 11-month-olds do not eat vegetables every day (and 25 percent don’t even eat fruit daily), per the FITS data. Infants 6 to 8 months old should eat approximately 1⁄4 cup (4 tablespoons) of puréed vegetable and 1⁄4 cup of puréed fruits daily. Older infants (8 to 10 months) need 1⁄2 cup of each daily.