Five stages of infant nutrition (0 to 12 months)

Infant nutrition is important during the first year of life because it influences your child’s physical and mental development and plays an integral role in your child’s health now and into the future. The first year of life, or infancy, encompasses the following five stages of nutrition that you should familiarise yourself with so you can be sure your child receives proper nourishment at each stage.

Stage 1: 0 to 4 Months

0 – 4 Months are Critical – All babies need breast milk or infant formula during their first four months. However, if you’re breastfeeding, your baby will continue to need it until he or she is at least one year old. Why? Because in addition to nutrients like protein and carbohydrates, breast milk provides valuable immune factors that help your baby stay healthy during these early days. 

And while there’s no magic number for how much milk a baby should drink each day, we recommend feeding your newborn about 8-12 times per 24 hours—which works out to about every 2-3 hours for a newborn. The idea here is not to overfeed your little one; rather, it’s important that you respond promptly when they show signs of hunger.

Stage 2: 4 to 6 Months

At 4 months, your infant can begin eating one or two servings a day of whole-grain cereals. Breast milk and/or iron-fortified infant formula should still be your baby’s main source of nutrition. 

As you introduce solid foods into your infant’s diet, continue breastfeeding on demand. The frequency of feedings will decrease as solids are introduced; by 6 months old, you will notice that feeding takes place during nighttime and morning hours.

Stage 3: 6 to 8 Months

Your baby starts grabbing and chewing on real food. At 6 to 8 months, your baby is starting to really get in touch with his senses, as well as what he’s putting into his mouth. He’ll start noticing colours, enjoying textures, and even beginning to chew. As a result, feeding time can be a little more hands-on and sometimes messy than it used to be.  

It’s important to remember that while some babies will begin showing interest in finger foods at around 7 or 8 months, others won’t show an interest until 10 or 11 months. So don’t rush things! Instead, wait until your baby shows an interest before introducing solid foods beyond breast milk or formula. 

Some healhy food options are: pureed or strained fruits (bananas, pears, apples, apricots, prunes), and yogurt (whole milk or soy based)

Stage 4: 8 to 10 Months

Baby starts eating a variety of solid foods, including white meat, vegetables and grain. However, breastfeeding remains an important part of your baby’s diet. At each feeding, she gets about half as much food from solids as from liquids. 

Solid foods are not yet a substitute for breast milk or formula.  Babies at stage 4 should still be breastfed on demand — that is, whenever they show signs of hunger. The number of times per day babies feed depends on their age and how quickly they eat. For example, at 10 months old your baby might eat five times per day: two meals with three snacks in between. 

Some healhy food options are: Finger foods like small o-shaped cereals, plain crackers, or small pieces of soft fruit, cooked pasta, or vegetables

Stage 5: 10 to 12 Months

When your baby is 10 months old, it’s time to begin focusing your baby on solid foods. Keep in mind that it might take your baby a little longer than most kids to learn how to eat table food (food not pureed); remember that every child develops at his or her own pace. It’s important not to rush your baby through these early developmental stages just because he or she is getting older. 

Each stage has its own value for learning new skills and making progress toward becoming an independent eater. If you have any questions about introducing solids into your infant’s diet, talk with a pediatrician about what’s best for your child.

Finally, as infants grow, so does their need for healthy eating. The five developmental stages of infant nutrition should be carefully considered by parents when choosing meals and snacks. The most important thing parents can do is consult a doctor or pediatrician with any questions about their child’s nutritional needs. With their help, you can give your baby a head start on healthy eating that will last into adulthood.