6–8 months As your baby acquires teeth and is better able to chew, you may add strained, mashed or finely chopped soft vegetables and fruits, such as sweet potatoes, zucchini and bananas, to her diet.
Since babies tend to prefer sweeter foods, you may increase the chance that your baby will accept vegetables if you introduce them before fruits. Always spoon a small amount of baby food into a bowl and discard any uneaten portions, rather than feeding directly from the jar.
Some babies are also ready to drink from a cup now. Offer a small, child-sized cup with a lid and fill it with breast milk, iron-fortified infant formula, or a small amount of vitamin C-fortified 100-percent fruit juice, such as apple, white grape or pear juice. To keep their babies from getting too much sugar — albeit the type that occurs naturally in fruit — some parents prefer to dilute juice with water.
8–12 months At this age your baby probably will want to start feeding herself. Now is the perfect time to serve finger foods — small, bite-sized pieces of foods that are easy for her to pick up and eat, such as cooked peas, chopped peaches and unsweetened cereal. Now is also the time to add protein-rich foods, such as yogurt, finely cut or chopped meat, poultry or fish, and egg yolks. To help prevent allergies, hold off on egg whites until after your child’s first birthday. Honey, which may contain botulism spores, also should not be fed to children for the first year.
After your child is 12 months old, you can give her “whole” cow’s milk. (She needs the fat from whole milk to help her brain grow and develop properly.) Lower-fat varieties are usually not introduced until after a child’s second birthday.
When it comes to feeding, trust your baby’s instincts and be confident in your ability to nourish her properly. Remember that by helping your baby learn how to enjoy eating a variety of nutritious foods early on, you will help her develop healthful eating habits to last a lifetime.