It's important to know what your baby's nutritional needs are at each stage of her life. From birth to the toddler years, changing bodies require different types of foods in varying serving sizes. Keep reading for the scoop on what you should be feeding your little one at this stage of her life.

Contributed by Dr. Kathleen Reidy.

Infant

From birth to 12 months, breast milk or iron-fortified formula should be your baby's main source of nutrition. During this stage, your baby will breastfeed on demand or need about 24 ounces of infant formula daily. All babies are different so be sure to follow her hunger and fullness cues.

Breast milk is recommended as the best start for babies. It's the ideal source of nutrition during your baby's first year of life. Breast milk has a balance of nutrients including proteins, carbohydrates and fat -- to help her develop and grow. When breast milk isn't an option, iron-fortified infant formula provides complete nutrition for your baby and is the only substitute for breast milk.

Supported sitter

When your baby is developmentally ready -- and not before four months of age -- you can gradually introduce solid foods. Keep in mind that breast milk or iron-fortified infant formula should remain your baby's primary source of nutrition.

Single-grain infant cereal, such as rice cereal, is typically the first food introduced. The smooth, fine texture is developmentally appropriate for your baby's first solid food and infant cereals provide important nutrients, such as iron.

Daily servings at this stage

Breast milk or infant formula^24 fluid ounces total -- on demand
Grains and cereals^1/2 to 1 ounce total -- twice a day serving is 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of dry infant cereal with iron
Vegetables^1/4 cup total -- twice a day serving is 2 tablespoons of vegetable puree (single vegetable variety)
Fruits^1/4 cup total -- twice a day serving is 2 tablespoons of fruit puree (single fruit variety)

Sitter

By now, your baby may be eating solid foods and may even show interest in trying the foods that other family members are eating. But babies at the sitter stage aren't ready for table foods. Breast milk and/or formula continue to be the main sources of nutrition.

At this stage, you may also want to introduce pureed meat or poultry. As your baby continues her solid-food journey, it's important to follow her appetite.

Daily servings at this stage

Breast milk or infant formula^24 fluid ounces total -- on demand
Grains and Cereal^1 ounce (28 grams) total -- twice a day serving is 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of dry infant cereal with iron
Vegetables^1/4 cup total -- twice a day serving is 2 tablespoons of vegetable puree
Fruits^1/4 cup total -- twice a day serving is 2 tablespoons of fruit puree
Meats or beans^1/2 ounce total -- twice a day serving is 1 tablespoon of pureed baby food meat or poultry

Crawler

As your crawler starts to grow familiar with mealtime and her developmental skills improve, she may be able to start feeding herself. This is a good time to introduce stage-appropriate finger foods, such as diced, ripe banana or well-cooked pasta.

It's also a good time to let your baby hold a spoon and try feeding herself. It may get messy and your baby may not be able to get any food into her mouth, but letting your baby practice these skills will prepare her for being able to feed herself.

Daily servings at this stage

Breast milk or infant formula^24 fluid ounces total -- on demand
Grains or cereal^1 ounce (28 grams) total -- twice a day serving is 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of dry infant cereal with iron
Vegetables^1/2 cup total -- twice a day serving is 3 to 4 tablespoons of vegetable puree or mashed, soft cooked peeled vegetables
Fruits^1/2 cup total -- twice a day serving is 3 to 4 tablespoons of fruit puree
Meats or beans^1 ounce total -- serving is 2 tablespoons of plain, cooked meat or poultry, pureed or 1 ounce of beans, cooked and mashed or 1/2 of a scrambled egg

Toddler

During this stage, your independent toddler will probably let you know what foods she likes and what foods she doesn't like. Her preferences can change from day to day -- just be sure to continue to offer her a variety of nutrient-dense foods at meal and snack times. Remember that your toddler's appetite fluctuates, so she may eat a lot at one meal and less at other meals. Let her follow her hunger and fullness cues.

Daily servings at this stage

Dairy^2 cups (16 fluid ounces) total -- serving is 1/2 to 1 cup (4 fluid ounces to 8 fluid ounces)
Grains and cereals^2 ounces of grain equivalents (about 28 grams) total -- each of the following contributes about 1/2 ounce of grain -- 1/2 slice of whole grain bread, 1 pancake , 1/4 cup of cooked pasta, 1/4 cup of cereal
Vegetables^3/4 cup total -- serving is 1/4 cup of vegetable puree or mashed vegetables, or soft cooked, chopped and peeled vegetables
Fruits^1 cup total -- serving is 1/4 cup of fruit puree or mashed fruit, or soft, chopped and peeled fruit
Meats or Beans^1-1/2 ounces total -- serving is 3 tablespoons of plain, easy to chew, thoroughly cooked meat or poultry or about 1 scrambled egg

>>Dr. Kathleen Reidy is a registered dietitian, head of nutrition science and baby food at Nestle Nutrition and a member of the American Society of Nutritional Science, the American Public Health Association and the American Dietetic Association.

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