Healthy Eating for 6 to 24 month old Children (2)
Moving On (6 – 12 months)
- Baby's food and diet
- Introducing new food
- Trying foods of different textures
- Food and nutrients
- How to arrange daily meals for your baby
- Making baby's dishes with a variety of foods
- Eating out
- Feeding during illness
The eating environment
Feeding your baby
Baby's food and diet
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After your baby gets used to taking soft food from a spoon, you should introduce a variety of new foods one at a time. Choose foods that are rich in iron.
- Try foods of different textures according to your baby's ability to chew;
- Breastmilk or formula milk is still his main food. As he eats more solid food, he will require less milk;
- Babies younger than 1 year old accept new food more readily. Take this opportunity to let him experience a wide range of foods.
Introducing new food
- Offer new food in the morning or at noon. This allows you to watch for any food allergies;
- Introduce new foods one at a time. Begin with 1 to 2 teaspoons and let your baby try the food for 2 to 4 days;
- Add the new food into rice cereal or congee, or offer it to your baby directly.
Tips: Choose food for your baby from your family's food basket.
My baby is not willing to eat the new food. What can I do?
- Your baby may show some strange facial expressions when tasting a new food. This does not mean that he refuses to eat the food;
- If he opens his mouth for the food, continue to feed him;
- If he does not want to eat, try again in 1 to 2 weeks;
- Some babies need to try 8 to 15 times before they will eat a new food, so be patient. Do not give up after only 2 or 3 tries.
Trying foods of different textures
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Start with smooth puree, then move to mashed food with small soft lumps, and then to minced or chopped food. The gradual change in food texture helps your baby to learn to chew.
Babies differ in their development. Parents should give food of appropriate textures according to the babies' ability to chew.
When your baby can eat chopped food, he can share food with the family.
To learn more about food textures, please refer to the "7-day Healthy Meal Planning Guide for 6 to 24 month old children".
Babies can do it!
- Most 8-month-old babies can handle finely minced food;
- They can chew with their gums;
- If they are only fed purees, they may have problems eating food of coarse texture in the future.
How do babies react when they first try thick or lumpy food?
- At first, babies may eat less or eat more slowly;
- When the food is so lumpy and tough that your baby cannot chew it. He will spit it out, or even gag.
- If this happens, prepare the food in a finer texture and let your baby get used to it gradually.
Beware of choking hazards
- Do not give babies food that is small and hard, like sweets, or food that is sticky, such as glutinous rice dumplings;
- When you give your baby food that is small and roundish, such as grapes or cherries. remove the seeds and cut the food into small pieces first;
- Be careful to remove the bones from meat or fish.
Babies' bowel movements
As your baby eats more solid food, his bowel movements may change. The stool may become thicker and have tiny food pieces in it. If your baby passes runny stool or there is blood or mucus, bring him to see a doctor as soon as possible.
Food and nutrients
Eating a variety of foods
As your baby eats more solid food, you should include a variety of foods in his meals. This ensures that he will enjoy well-balanced nutrition.
Main sources of nutrients:
Grains (e.g. Rice, noodles, pasta, bread, oatmeal)
Grain provides carbohydrates, proteins, several B vitamins (excluding vitamin B12) and magnesium.
Whole grain foods such as brown rice and whole wheat bread provide more vitamin E and dietary fibres. Offer these foods to babies when they can chew better.
Eggs or meat (e.g. fish, chicken, pork, beef, mutton, liver, seafood)
Eggs or meat provide protein, fat, cholesterol, iron, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B and B12. Fish provides more unsaturated fat; fatty fish also contains vitamin D. Avoid eating fish of high levels of methylmercury. Egg yolk and liver are rich in vitamin A and contain vitamin D (Avoid eating liver too often).
Dry beans and other bean products (e.g. Red kidney beans, chickpeas, red beans, cowpeas, and other bean products)
Dry beans and other bean products provide protein, carbohydrates, several B vitamins (excluding vitamin B12), iron, zinc and dietary fibres. Tofu made by the traditional method provides calcium.
Vegetables (e.g. Green leafy vegetables: choy sum, bok choy, broccoli, Chinese kale, leaf mustard, Chinese spinach, etc.)
Vegetables are rich in carotene, vitamin C, folic acid, dietary fibres, potassium and minerals. Green leafy vegetables are rich sources of iron, calcium, vitamin E and K.
Fruits (e.g. Bananas, pears, apples, grapes, watermelons)
Fruits provide vitamin C, folic acid, dietary fibres, potassium and minerals. Dark yellow fruits, such as papaya, mango, contain carotene. Example of vitamin C rich fruits are kiwifruits, strawberries, oranges, papaya, persimmons.
Milk and milk products (e.g. Cheese, yoghurt, milk)
Milk and milk products provide protein, saturated fat, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin B12.
Cow's milk should not replace breastmilk or formula milk for babies under 1 year old as their main source of food.
- After eating solid food, offer babies boiled water to drink so that they can get used to it;
- Babies usually drink a few sips of water each time and that is enough;
- Do not replace boiled water with glucose water, juice or sweet drinks. This protects babies from developing a bad habit of drinking sugary drinks.
Babies need iron-rich foods
After 6 months of age, babies need more iron. They should eat adequate amounts of iron-rich food daily.
- Rice or wheat cereal with iron added is a good choice;
- Iron in meat, fish and egg yolk is easier to absorb;
- Vitamin C in fruits helps the body to absorb the iron in green leafy vegetables and dry beans;
- When your baby eats meat or egg yolk and vegetables daily, you can gradually replace the rice cereal with congee.
Iodine is essential for the development of the nervous system. What foods provide iodine?
- Kelp, seaweed (They have a high iodine content, so eating a small amount is enough.);
- Iodised salt;
- Seawater fish, seawater shrimp, shellfish;
- Milk, egg yolk.
DHA helps in the development of babies' nervous systems. What foods contain DHA?
Fish is the main source of DHA. Salmon, sardines and halibut are rich sources. Golden thread, Bigeyes and Pomfret also provide DHA.
- When cooking for your baby, add a small amount
of vegetable oil;
- This provides your baby with energy, and also helps him absorb fat-soluble vitamins;
- Vegetable oils provide essential fatty acids that are needed for growth and the development of the brain;
- Various types of vegetable oils differ in their composition. They can be used in turns or in mixtures.
Eating a variety of foods helps us maintain good health.
How to arrange daily meals for your baby
Babies at 6 to 8 months
Milk is the main food. Your baby needs about 5 milk feedings per day.
For 2 to 3 of those feedings, offer him solid food first and then give him milk.
Feeding solid food
- At first, offer babies 1 to 2 tablespoons of solid food;
- As babies get used to chewing and swallowing, they will eat more solid food;
- Some babies are more interested in eating solid food at the beginning of a meal. They may soon get tired from chewing and will not eat much. If so, give them milk.
Feeding breastmilk or formula milk
- Feed babies milk according to their needs and stop when they show signs of fullness;
- As babies eat more solid food, they take less milk and need milk feedings less often.
When is it appropriate to replace one milk feeding with a meal of solid food?
If grains, veggies, meat (or fish, eggs) and oil are all provided in most of your baby's meals, and for several days he does not want to take milk after eating a meal, he can skip one milk feeding.
Note: Make sure your baby eats the meat lumps to obtain sufficient nutrients.
Babies at 9 to 11 months
Your baby needs about 5 feedings a day. In 2 to 3 meals, he eats mainly solid food.
Feeding solid food
- Most babies at 8 to 9 months can have 1 to 2 milk feedings replaced by solid food;
- Babies eat 2 to 3 main meals of solid food every day;
- You can also give your baby some fruits once or twice daily as a snack.
Feeding breastmilk or formula milk
- Continue breastfeeding;
- Babies who are bottle fed generally need about 2 to 3 milk feedings and around 500 to 600 ml of milk per day;
- Feeding too much milk and too often may reduce your baby's appetite for other food.
- At 6 months of age, most babies already have a regular feeding pattern. They need a feed about every 3 to 4 hours. Most of them can sleep through night, no longer require a night feeding.
- Babies start to eat with their families. They gradually adapt to eating according to the family mealtime schedule.
- At about 1 year old, parents should set up a regular mealtime schedule for their babies.
Making baby's dishes with a variety of foods
- Mix and match vegetables, meat, fish or eggs with rice cereal, congee or soft rice to make a tasty and nutritious meal;
- Give fruits to your baby after a meal or as snacks;
- Choosing foods in turn and changing food combinations can help your baby get used to new foods.
Examples of meals for babies:
- Rice cereal with choy sum and egg yolk served with papaya puree for babies of 7 months old
- Thick congee with chicken, carrot & Shanghai white cabbage served with kiwi sticks for babies of 8 months old
- ABC pasta with tomato, beef and bok choy served with cubes of orange for children around 1 year old
Note: Please refer to the food combinations in the menus and the recipes in the 7-day Healthy Meal Planning Guide for 6 to 24 month old children.
- Bring along your baby's food, feeding utensils, bibs and scissors, etc.
- Choose a restaurant that is hygienic and provides a baby seat;
- Here are some food suggestions for your baby:
- Rice cereal, fruits;
- Pre-packaged baby food: check the "best before" date. Throw away any left-overs;
- Share foods from adults' dishes that are only lightly-seasoned, such as steamed fish, boiled vegetables, tofu, etc.;
- Breastmilk or formula milk.
Q&A: Is it safe to bring cooked food in a thermal flask when going out?
In general, a small thermal flask cannot keep food at a safe temperature (i.e. keeping hot food at 60°C or above) for a long period. To reduce the risk of bacterial growth, the food must be eaten within two hours after it is cooked if it is kept in a thermal flask.
Feeding during illness
Increase fluid intake
The body loses more water than usual during illness.
- Offer your baby water more often;
- You may also give your baby soup (such as melon soup, tomato soup).
After recovery, your baby's appetite returns. He may eat more than he used to.
Give food that is easy-to-swallow
Your baby may lose his appetite and may not want to chew.
- Give foods that are soft like melons, fish, chicken, tofu, soft rice or
- Your baby may drink more milk and eat less solid food;
- Adjust the number of feedings and the amount according to his needs.
The eating environment
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Parents should arrange a good eating environment when feeding their babies. This makes feeding babies easier and also helps them to enjoy eating, master the skill of feeding themselves and develop good eating habits.
A good feeding environment
- Eat together as a family
- Turn off the TV and remove objects that distract your baby
- Let your baby eat on a regular seat at a fixed place
- Sit with your baby at the same level so that he can see you
- Let your baby sit at the dining table or have his own dining tray
- Cover the floor with a newspaper or a tablecloth
Parents can arrange the feeding environment in the following ways:
Turn off the TV and put away toys:
- This keeps your baby focused on eating and makes him more motivated to feed himself and to use a spoon;
- It increase the chances for him to communicate with you;
- He will be more aware of it when he is full so that he will not overeat;
- It prevents your baby from developing the bad habit of playing while eating.
What researches have found
- Eating while watching TV leads to
- Watching TV is associated with delays in speech development in children under 2 years old;
Therefore, you should not let children under 2 years old watch TV.
Sit your baby in the same chair for each meal
- This helps your baby to learn that 'sitting here' means 'it is time to eat', and to form the habit of sitting down to eat.
- Parents can choose a suitable high chair, a booster chair or a seat according to the home setting.
Let your baby have his own dining tray or sit at the dining table
- Mealtime will be more pleasurable as he can reach the food and use the spoon easily;
- The tray can also catch food spills for easy clean-up later.
How to feed your baby
Babies of 6 to 11 months old are curious about their surroundings. They are easily distracted during feeding.
By following the tips below, you can help your baby eat well and develop his social and self care skills.
More interactions bring more pleasure
- Respond to your baby's actions so that he feels he is being cared for. He will find eating enjoyable;
- Chat with him about the food;
- When he does well, praise him.
Feeding at your baby's own pace
- Observe your baby as he eats;
- Do not rush him;
- Feeding too fast can easily lead to choking or over-eating.
Feeding according to your baby's needs
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- Babies generally get full within 15 to 20 minutes;
- When your baby is full, he will be less interested in eating and slow down;
- As he ages, his reaction to being urged to eat after he is full gets stronger, for example he may push away the spoon.
Responding to baby's need during feeding
During feeding, your baby may show the following behaviours to indicate his need. Be responsive to your baby's needs in feeding and act accordingly.
“Refuse to eat”
Babies may be reluctant to eat if they are exposed to a new food, a change in food textures or a new food taste. Parents can try different cooking methods, food combinations, tastes, and adjust the food textures. You can also let your baby try the new food a few days later.
When a baby is full, he refuses to eat, or sometimes may gag. Parents can call him gently to draw his attention to the food. If he still shows no interest in the food, he is probably full.
“Gag while swallowing”
When babies are not used to the coarse textures of the food, or larger food pieces, they may gag. This also happens when they are fed too fast or given too much at a time. If it happens, parents should stay calm. After cleaning them up, try again in smaller mouthfuls, slow down in feeding. If it is related to the change in food texture, parents can make the food a bit softer and less coarse for them to try again.
“Grab or point at the food”
Babies usually indicate they want more by grabbing or pointing at foods. Parent should keep on feeding him. If he wants to hold the food, you can offer him finger food or a spoon to feed himself.
Adapting to a new way of eating
During the transitional period of learning to eat solid food, babies are also learning to eat independently. When feeding them, parents should make the following two changes: let your baby eat with you together as a family, and help your baby learn to feed himself.
Eating together as a family
Babies like to eat with parents, and adults they are familiar with. Eating with other family members helps them develop good eating behaviours.
- Expose him to a greater variety of food at the family table. Babies have more chances to taste new foods and family foods. This helps them accept new foods more easily.
- Let him watch others eating. Through watching and copying how others eat, babies learn to feed themselves and enjoy eating more.
- Help him develop social skills. Family members actively communicate with each other during mealtimes. Babies will love to join in.
How to eat together with my baby?
- Let your baby eat with family members for at least one meal each day;
- Allow him to hold the food to eat or explore the spoon while you feed him;
- At start, you need to prepare the food for him separately;
- Let him taste the family foods that are suitable for him. This helps him adapt to eating the family's food.
Learning to feed themselves
From 8 to 12 months of age, babies pick up daily objects and try to understand their use. They also learn to drink from a cup and hold food to eat at this stage. Refer to “How to help your baby learn to feed himself”, and “How to help your baby learn to drink from a cup” for more details.
How to help your baby learn to feed himself
- Your baby is ready to learn to feed himself when he reaches out for food.
- Stay with him during mealtime. Watch him and respond to him appropriately.
Clean your baby's hands and face before and after meals. Avoid wiping his hands too often during meals, as this may disturb his interest in eating.
When your baby reaches out for the food, you can prepare food that is easy for your baby to hold and eat. Cut sweet potatoes, vegetable stalks, carrots and broccoli in 7 to 10 cm long strips and cooked them soft. When giving your baby vegetable stalks, peel off the hard skin first, or offer him a new one once the soft part of the stalk is eaten. You can also give him baby biscuits (occasionally).
When your baby picks up small objects with his fingers, cut the food into thin slices or lumps for your baby to pick up such as thin slices of banana, soft fruits, cheese cubes, small pieces of bread, soft cooked macaroni or pasta.
When your baby reaches out for the spoon, parent should prepare spoon made of baby-safe material with a small round tip and a thick handle. Give him a spoon to explore. Feed him with another spoon.
At about 12 months old, your baby may dips the spoon into the bowl and then puts it into his mouth. He becomes more skillful in using spoon at 12 to 18 months old. Let him try to feed himself with a spoon while you are feeding him. Give him some other food to hold in his hands and eat.
Why does my baby put everything she picks up into her mouth?
At 6 to 12 months, babies use various senses to learn about an object, e.g. touching, smelling, banging, putting it into the mouth, and observing how others respond to their actions. This also helps them learn whether the object is edible.
Pay attention to home safety when helping your baby to learn and explore:
- Put away things that may cause choking or harm;
- Always stay close and keep an eye on your baby;
- Maintain good hygiene in your home.
Responding to your baby's attempts to self feed
During feeding, your baby may grab the feeding spoon, let him take it if it is suitable for him and feed him with another one.
During feeding, your baby may bang with a spoon, let him play with it gently as babies usually explore objects in this way. If the noise disturbs others, distract him and take away the spoon.
Baby can learn about the food by touching, pinching, tasting, dropping or throwing it. During feeding, your baby may act like he is "playing" with the food, for example by poking it with fingers, you do not need to stop him. Draw his attention to the spoon and food. Feed him when he opens his mouth. If he tends to ignore the food you offer him and continues "playing", he is full. You should stop feeding him.
During feeding, your baby may pick up the food and eat, you should praise him.
How to help your baby learn to drink from a cup
At 7 to 9 months of age, offer your baby a cup and help him to drink from it.
When learning to use a cup, babies may throw or knock over the cup. They might even choke while they drink too.
Stages of learning to drink from a cup
At around 7 months old, your baby is ready to learn to drinking from a cup. You can:
- Give your baby a training cup or small regular cup;
- Fill the cup with a small amount of water;
- Hold the cup close to his lower lip and tilt it, so that he drinks slowly.
From 8 to 12 months old, your baby gradually learns to hold the cup and drink from it. You can:
- Let him hold the cup handles. As he drinks, stay close and offer help;
- You can put water, milk or clear soup into the cup.
During 12 to 18 months of age, most babies can hold and drink from a cup. By 18 months of age, assist your baby to stop drinking from feeding bottle to protect his teeth.
Babies are more willing to try using a cup when:
- Parents are drinking water. This is because they love copying adults;
- They are thirsty, e.g. after eating bread or biscuits.
It may be easier for babies to start with a training cup. When he uses it well, you can give him a small regular cup with two handles.
Choosing a cup
What is a suitable training cup?
- Cups without no-spill design. Water flows from the spout freely when the cup is tilted. Turn the no-spill cup to free-flow cup simply by removing the valve from the lid.
- Small size. It is easy to hold.
- Handles on both sides. Your baby can hold onto the cup more easily.
- A spout. This helps your baby drink from the cup more easily.
- Transparent container. You can see the water flow when your baby drinks.
- Safe material. Choose cups that are bisphenol A (BPA) free.
Why is it better to use a free-flow training cup?
Water flows freely when babies drink from the cup. This helps babies gradually adapt to drinking from a regular cup.
My baby doesn't like the spout of the training cup!
Give him a small regular cup. Help him and allow him to explore. Be patient. He will drink from it with time.
- At about one year old, babies can drink or sip using a straw;
- After your baby can use a cup with a straw, he should stop using the feeding bottle.
- Stay with your baby and supervise him whenever he eats;
- Do not give drinks with solid bits or let him sip these drinks with a straw.
Parent's mission in feeding
During the transition to eating solid food, your mission is to:
- Provide your baby with different kinds of nutritious food;
- Offer your baby food textures that match his stage of development and vary the food combinations;
- Provide a suitable eating environment, avoid screen time with electronic media for your baby;
- Accept that your baby knows how much he needs to eat;
- Identify your baby's signs of hunger and fullness, and feed him accordingly;
- Help your baby learn to feed himself and to drink from a cup;
- Establish a regular feeding schedule that fits in with family routines.
Fostering healthy habits
Babies learn by copying. Parents should act as role models for how to live and eat healthily.
- Your home environment should be safe: Play with your baby more often on a floor mat. Let him move about either by rolling, crawling or cruising along furniture;
- Parents should eat a balanced diet;
- Bring your baby outdoors often to play and get sunshine, e.g. playing or walking in a park daily. Let his arm, hand and legs expose to sunlight directly. This helps the body produce vitamin D, which makes bones strong;
- Clean your baby's mouth daily.
- Wet a piece of gauze or a handkerchief with drinking water;
- Wrap it around your finger and then gently put the finger inside your baby's mouth;
- Rub your baby's gums as well as his teeth.
For more information, please visit www.toothclub.gov.hk.
Healthy eating for 6 to 24 month old children "Moving On" – Reminder to parents
When feeding a 6 to 12-month-old baby, you should:
- Offer your baby a variety of foods (including grains, vegetables, fruits, meat and fish) while continue breastfeeding or formula milk feeding;
- As your baby consumes a wider range and larger quantity of solid foods, he needs less milk. Feed him milk according to his demand. After 9 months of age, babies usually eat solid food to replace 2 or 3 milk feedings;
- Give your baby iron-rich food – i.e. rice cereal, meat, fish or egg yolk, green leafy vegetables or beans;
- Gradually change food textures – from thick puree to soft lumpy food;
- When your baby is around 7 to 9 months old, help him learn to drink from a cup and let him hold the food to eat;
- Seat your baby on a high chair to eat with the family;
- While feeding, talk with and respond to your baby so that he feels relaxed and happy.
If your baby has the following conditions at 10 months of age, you should consult your doctor or nurse:
- He can only eat food purees or drink milk, and does not accept soft lumpy food like congee with minced meat and vegetables;
- He refuses to eat all of the foods in one or more basic food groups, e.g. refusing to eat vegetables, fruits or meats.
If you have problems feeding your baby, please consult your doctor or nurse.
- Website: www.fhs.gov.hk
- 24-hour information hotline: 2112 9900
- My baby refuses to drink from a cup
- Should I choose a cup with a straw for my baby?
- My little boy drinks less milk when I offer him milk in his training cup. What can I do?