When starting solids with your baby it is not necessary to jump right in with a full 3 meals per day!
Up until this point, you have most likely fed your baby on demand, but now that you are starting solids it is the ideal time to start a typical daily meal routine to start regulating appetite by maintaining consistency.
Similar to how you probably have a typical set “nap and bedtime” routine for your baby, it is also important to have a feeding routine.
Feeding routines allow for ample time to build an appetite without going an unreasonable and unrealistic amount of time without feeding your child.
Just like your child’s sleep schedule allows them ample “wake time” so that when they reach nap/bedtime they are appropriately tired without being overly tired.
Breastmilk/formula will still be their main source of nutrition (6-11 months) and solid feedings will slowly increase over time.
6 Months Old
Once your baby has met all the signs of readiness to start solids (read more about that here>>), it is only necessary to offer solid foods once per day. At first, it won’t really look like “eating”. There will be lots of smashing, licking, spitting out, and (mostly) dropping. But with practice & patience, it will begin to look more like what you are expecting.
7-8 Months Old
After a couple of weeks of practicing, it is okay to add a second meal per day. At this stage, you still want to offer a milk feeding about 30 minutes before a solid. This helps prevent your baby from being overly hungry. An overtired baby will become frustrated and tired more quickly so this will help keep meals more positive.
9-11 Months Old
Now it is time to add the third meal per day. This is also the time to start offering solids before milk feedings (instead of after) but milk (breast or formula) will remain your baby’s main source of nutrition.
After a year of age, solids will become their main source of nutrition, and milk or breastmilk will become supplementary.
The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until 2 years of age. Even though solid foods will be the main source of nutrition after one year of age, as long as both mom & baby want to/are able to continue, I encourage breastfeeding as long as possible! You do not have to wean at a year ( or even at two years) but at this point, you do want to make sure you are focusing on solid food!
Want to learn more about WHAT to feed your baby? Check out this post >>
12 Months and Up
At this point, your baby is transitioning from milk (breast or formula) being their main source of nutrition to solid foods being their main source. Now is the age that we begin to include snacks in their routine. These additional opportunities to eat will help them to meet their daily nutrient needs and are important!
Try to focus on building a daily eating routine with 3 meals and 2-3 snacks per day – all spaced about 2-3 hours apart. This allows for time between meals to develop an age-appropriate appetite but keeps them close enough together that you will not have to worry if they don’t eat much or choose not to eat at all. This is part of following the Division of Responsibility in feeding, read more about that here>>
Finding a Routine that Fits
We talk often about the importance of having a set routine when it comes to feeding children.
A routine allows for them to have age-appropriate windows between opportunities to eat so that they can BECOME hungry. Because all day snacking (or grazing) might seem like a good way to get them to eat “more” but research shows these children often either don’t eat enough at all or pick up a habit of “mindless eating” and begin eating past being full. Both aren’t the goal.
We want our children to have the space to honor their bodies and hunger and eat until they feel full. This allows them to grow into their own body!
And the best way to do that is by finding a feeding routine that works for your family.
But what does a “routine” really mean?
A routine is this: a predictable sequence of events throughout the day. That’s it’s.
What it is NOT is a ridged schedule that must be maintained at all costs because that’s crazy and unrealistic.
Routines are meant for having a predictable and reliable structure to our day but they are NOT meant to be a strict schedule that leaves you feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
Find a routine that works for your family and try to follow that as best you can ❤️ but don’t ever let yourself get down about it because “best practices” and “real life” don’t always line up-and that’s okay!
Example Schedule for Starting Solids
When it comes to finding a routine, remember that finding one that fits your family is most important so this is only meant to serve as an example of how to space out your day with milk feedings, solids, & sleeping.
**Keep in mind that you do want to allow for at least 2 hours after offering a “Top Allergen” for monitoring your baby before putting them to sleep. Because of this, some families might need to do allergy exposures on the weekends so it can be done earlier in the day when a parent or caregiver can monitor the baby**
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