Child and Preadolescent Nutrition

Photo credit: Patricia Prudente

Photo credit: Patricia Prudente

The growth and developmental stage of children ages 5-10 years can be described as middle childhood, or school age. Preadolescence is the developmental and growth stage of children ages 9-11 for girls and ages 10-12 for boys.(1)


Nutrition plays an important role in helping to ensure children reach their full potential for growth, development and overall health.(1) Nutrition related problems that can occur during this stage include under-nutrition, and weight issues on both sides of the spectrum. The prevalence of childhood obesity is on the rise, and the beginnings of disordered eating can be present in children at this stage.(1,2,3) Adequate nutrition and establishing healthy eating behaviors are important factors for preventing immediate health problems, and for promoting a healthy lifestyle to avoid chronic disease in the future. Something as simple as eating breakfast daily has been linked to improved performance in school.(4)


During middle childhood, there is an increase in muscle strength, stamina, and motor coordination allowing children to participate in dance, sports, and other physical activities.(1)


Percent body fat reaches a minimum of 16% in females and 13% in males during this stage.(1) This percent will increase in preparation for the adolescent growth spurt, which typically occurs around age 6. This increase is known as BMI rebound.(5) The increase in body fat that occurs with puberty happens earlier in females than males. In females the increase in body fat is about 19%, and in males it is about 14%.(1) This increase may cause concern, especially in girls, that they are becoming overweight. Be aware that this increase is a normal part of growth and development.(1) It is important to reassure your child that these changes are normal. Take care not to reinforce a preoccupation with size and weight, which can lead to disordered eating behaviors and eating disorders.


Cognitively, children in this stage develop a sense of self, and self-efficacy, which is the knowledge of what to do and the ability to do it. They can focus on several parts of a situation at the same time, have cause and effect reasoning, and can classify, reclassify and generalize.(1,6) They also are able to see others’ points of view (they are no longer egocentric as they are during the toddler and preschooler years). Children become more independent and learn their roles within their families, at school, and in their communities. More time is spent with friends, at others’ homes, watching television, on the computer, and using other methods of technology. External influences from the environment begin to play increasingly important roles in all aspects of the child’s life.(1)


During childhood, the use of eating utensils is mastered. Involvement in simple food preparation and the assignment of chores related to mealtime (like setting the table) can be important for helping your child develop healthy behaviors around food and nutrition. Children of this age are strongly influenced by the eating behaviors of their parents and older siblings, who can help shape the child’s attitudes towards food and food choices, as well as their food likes and dislikes.(7) Parents are responsible for creating the food environment in the home, the availability of a variety of foods for the child to select from, determining when the child is served, and providing guidance so the child can make healthy food choices when away from home. The child is responsible for how much food she eats.(1,7)


Eating meals with the family together is encouraged, as is allowing time for pleasant conversation. Avoiding reprimanding and arguments during mealtime is recommended. There are associations between families eating dinner together and the overall quality of the child’s diet, where children that eat dinner with their families have better dietary intakes of fruit, vegetables, fiber, calcium, folate, iron, B vitamins, and vitamins C and E.(1) Family dinners together can become more challenging as the child gets older and has extracurricular activities to take part in.


Because children at this stage spend more time outside of the home, peer influence, and influence of teachers, coaches and others increases and extends to attitudes toward food and food choices.(8) The media also plays an increasingly larger role in shaping your child’s attitudes towards food and food choices.(9)


Snacking helps children meet their nutritional needs because they are not able to consume large amounts of food in one sitting at this stage.(1) Giving them access to a variety of foods, nutrition education for helping them make their own food choices, and knowledge of some basic food preparation techniques can allow them to begin to prepare their own breakfasts and snacks.(1)


Children have the innate ability to internally control their energy (calories from food) intake, and these internal cues can be altered by external influences, which increase during this stage of childhood development.(1,10) Children of parents who control their child’s eating have a lesser ability to innately respond to their own energy needs, meaning these children lose the ability to respond appropriately to their innate nutritional needs, and their internal controls of hunger and satiety.(1,10) 


Parents who experienced difficulty controlling their own intakes may impose more restrictions on their children, and this transfer of unhealthy eating behavior may influence children as early as preschool age.(1,10)  If mom is on a diet, her daughter is likely to follow suit. The preadolescent increase in body fat, especially in young girls, is often seen as the beginning of a weight problem, rather than normal growth and development.


Imposing controls and restrictions over dietary intake can actually promote increased intake of ‘forbidden’ or ‘restricted’ foods, and may be a risk factor for developing obesity in the future.(1,10)  Dieting, dietary restrictions and controlling child feedings ignore internal cues of hunger and satiety, and can contribute to the onset of obesity, and the beginning of eating disorders.(1,10 )


There is a slow and steady growth rate during this developmental stage, energy needs reflect this, and are based on the individual child’s activity level and body size.(1)


Predictors of childhood obesity include having parents that are obese (in particular the mother(11), lower socioeconomic status, early BMI rebound (the normal increase in BMI that happens after BMI decreases to its lowest point, around 6 years of age), and more than 2 hours of screen time (television, computers, etc.) per day.(1,12) With the increased prevalence of overweight and obesity in children comes an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, chronic conditions that used to be associated only with adults.(1,13)


Regular physical activity is important.(13,14) Set a good example for your child by being physically active and joining her in physical play activities. Encourage your children to participate in physical activities at home, at school and with friends, and limit their screen time to less than 2 hours per day.(1) Generally girls are less active than boys, and physical activity decreases with age. Seasons, climates and weather affect a child’s outdoor activity levels, and physical education in schools has decreased.(1)


Children are children first. This means that even if your child has special health care needs that change their nutrition, medical and social needs, they can still be expected to become more independent in making food choices, assisting with meal preparation, and participating in mealtime with other family members. Modifications can be made to help your child be successful. Children do not benefit from being treated in a ‘special’ manner when it comes to mealtime, and providing consistency and structure to support a child’s development is important. This structure can include regular meal and snack times, and an increasing responsibility in assisting with food preparation in the home. Energy and nutrient requirements may be higher, lower, or the same for children with special health needs compared to those without such needs, depending on the child’s condition.(1)


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  1. Brown J. Nutrition through the Life cycle 4th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth; 2011.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy Schools. Childhood Obesity Facts. Updated January 25, 2017. Available from: Accessed January 4, 2018.

  3. National Eating Disorders Association. Parent Toolkit. Available from: Accessed January 4, 2018.

  4. Adolphus K, Lawton CL, Dye L. The effects of breakfast on behavior and academic performance in children and adolescents. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 2013;7:425. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00425.

  5. Dietz WH. Critical periods in childhood for the development of obesity. Am J Clin Nutr. 1994;59(5):955-9. Available from:

  6. Cincinnati Children’s. Cognitive Development. Updated April 2017. Available from: Accessed January 4, 2018.

  7. Birch L, Savage JS, Ventura A. Influences on the Development of Children’s Eating Behaviours: From Infancy to Adolescence. Canadian journal of dietetic practice and research : a publication of Dietitians of Canada = Revue canadienne de la pratique et de la recherche en dietetique : une publication des Dietetistes du Canada. 2007;68(1):s1-s56.

  8. Salvy SJ, Elmo A, Nitecki LA, Kluczynski MA, Roemmich JN. Influence of parents and friends on children’s and adolescents’ food intake and food selection. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;93(1):87-92. Available from:

  9. Harris JL, Bargh JA. The Relationship between Television Viewing and Unhealthy Eating: Implications for Children and Media Interventions. Health communication. 2009;24(7):660-673. doi:10.1080/10410230903242267.

  10. Scaglioni S, Arriza C, Vecchi F, Tedeschi S. Determinants of children’s eating behavior. American Society for Nutrition. 2011;94(6):Suppl 2006S-2011S. doi: 10.3945/jcn.110.001685.

  11. Rooney BL, Mathiason MA, Schauberger CW. Predictors of obesity in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood in a birth cohort. Matern Child Health J. 2011;15(8):1166-75. doi: 10.1007/s10995-010-0689-1.

  12. Gable S,  Lutz S. Household, Parent, and Child Contributions to Childhood Obesity. Family Relations. 2000;49: 293–300. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3729.2000.00293.x.

  13. Hills, A.P., King, N.A. & Armstrong, T.P. The Contribution of Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviours to the Growth and Development of Children and Adolescents. Sports Med. 2007;37:533.

  14. Harsha DW. The benefits of physical activity in childhood. Am J Med Sci. 1995;310(Suppl 1):S109-13. Available from:

Toddler Nutrition

Photo credit: Jelleke Vanooteghem

Photo credit: Jelleke Vanooteghem

Children between the ages of 1-3 years are considered toddlers. During this stage of development there is a quick increase in gross and fine motor skills, along with an increased desire for independence, exploration of the environment, and development of language skills.(1)


For toddlers to reach their full growth and developmental potential, adequate intake of energy (calories from food) and nutrients is important. Nutritional deficiency, or under-nutrition, during this time can hinder cognitive development. Providing adequate nutrition in a supportive environment can prevent long-term effects of under-nutrition, like failure to thrive and cognitive impairment.(1,2)


Toddlers have an increased need to express their own will and this expression may come in the form of negativism and temper tantrums.(1,3) This is where the term “terrible twos” comes from. With increased motor development and an increased desire for independence, toddlers may try to do more than they are able, and this can lead to frustration for them, therefore some of the ‘difficult’ behaviors parents identify at this age.(1,3)


Weaning from breast or bottle-feedings typically occurs around 9-10 months of age, and the intake of solid foods increases. Drinking from a cup also tends to begin at this time. It is important for parents to pay attention to cues of readiness for weaning. For example, there may be a lack of interest in breast or bottle feedings. Weaning is a sign that the toddler is becoming more independent and is typically complete by age 12-14 months. Depending on the toddler this age can vary.(1)


Toddlers are able to chew different textured foods, and to feed themselves. By 12-18 months of age, they gain more tongue mobility and therefore can eat a wider variety of chopped or soft table foods. By 12 months of age they can pick up small objects and put them in their mouths, like cooked peas and carrots. They may also begin using a spoon. Between 18-24 months they should be able to handle meats, raw fruit and vegetables, and foods of a variety of textures.(1)


Due to the strong need for independence with self feeding, toddlers may start to use the phrases like “I do it!” and “no!”. This type of response is normal as they reduce their dependency on parents and caretakers.(3) Self-feeding can be messy as fine motor skills continue to develop. Parents should let children practice self-feeding, while minimizing environmental distractions during mealtime, like television. Adult supervision is important because there is a high risk for choking on foods. The toddler should eat seated with the family, and not be allowed to eat on the run, as we tend to do as busy adults.(1)


Toddlers have a need for rituals, and they may develop food jags (strong food preferences and dislikes).(4)  They may go through periods of refusing foods they previously liked. To mitigate this, serve new foods along with familiar ones. New foods are better accepted if they are introduced when the child is hungry and if she sees other family members eating the same foods. Toddlers are curious and they are great imitators, including imitating eating behaviors of others.(1)


Mealtime is not the time for battling over food and forced feedings. This is a time for toddlers to practice language and social skills and to develop a positive self-image. Eating breakfast is an important habit to establish for your toddler, and is a healthy eating behavior to continue throughout life. Also, mealtime with the family is important for modeling healthy eating behaviors for children.(1)


Toddlers naturally have a decreased interest in food because there is a slowed rate of growth at this age, along with which comes a decreased appetite. With their newfound gross and fine motor skills, they have interests in their environments beyond food and eating, and this is normal.(1)

Portion size for toddlers follows the rule of thumb. One rule of thumb for serving size is 1 tablespoon of food per year of age. That means that a serving for a 2 year old would be about 2 tablespoons. It is preferred to give toddlers smaller portions and have them ask for more rather than to serve larger portions. Overestimating and over serving children can lead to the child being labeled as a picky eater because toddlers can’t eat large amounts of food at one time.(3) Snacks therefore are important, however allowing your child to graze on unhealthy snacks like chips, cookies and sweetened beverages should be avoided because they can blunt the toddler’s appetite for healthy foods at mealtime. Toddlers can control the amount of food they eat by hunger, so allow your child to ‘voice’ their hunger and satiety cues without pressuring them to eat more, otherwise over or underfeeding can occur.(1,5)



  • Respond appropriately to the child’s hunger and satiety cues

  • Focus on long-term goals of developing healthy self-controls of eating

  • Look beyond concerns regarding the composition and quantity of foods consumed or fears that your child may eat too much and become overweight

  • Trying to control food intake by attaching punishment or reward to eating is not recommended

  • Severely restrict treats is not recommended because this may make such foods even more desirable

  • Model positive eating behaviors, like eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, and help your child develop preferences for a wide variety of foods consistent with a healthy diet and lifestyle

  • It may take repeated exposure to a new food before your child takes to it, this is normal, be patient and persistent

  • Serving appropriate portion sizes is important, and it’s better to keep them smaller and have your child ask for more if she wants it

  • Mealtimes should take place in a positive, secure and happy environment with the family, and with adult supervision

  • Children should not be forced to eat

  • If your child has low interest in eating, long mealtimes (more than 30 minutes), prefers liquids over solids, refuses foods, or needs to be offered foods as if she is younger than her chronological age, feeding problems may be indicated and further evaluation can be helpful


Need assistance or have questions? Contact me today!



  1. Brown J. Nutrition through the Life cycle 4th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth; 2011.

  2. Goh LH, How CH, Ng KH. Failure to thrive in babies and toddlers. Singapore Medical Journal. 2016;57(6):287-291. doi:10.11622/smedj.2016102.

  3. Hoecker JL. Mayo Clinic. Infant and toddler health. April 21, 2016. Available from: Accessed January 2, 2018.

  4. Pitman T. What to do when your picky eater goes on a food jag. Today’s Parent. September 29, 2015. Available from: Accessed January 2, 2018.

  5. Fox MK, Devaney B, Reidy K, Razafindrakoto C, Ziegler P. Relationship between portion size and energy intake among infants and toddlers: evidence of self-regulation. J Am Diet Assoc. 2006;106(1 Suppl 1):S77-83. Available from:

Infant Nutrition

Photo credit: Sadık Kuzu

Photo credit: Sadık Kuzu

Full-term infants (39 to 40 weeks gestation1) can do a lot! They can hear, and move in response to familiar sounds like their mother’s voice. They have four states of arousal ranging from sleep to fully alert. Recognizing your infant’s state of arousal is important for being able to nurse successfully. Within hours after birth, newborns have reflexes allowing them to root, suckle and coordinate swallowing and breathing.(2)


The mouth of a healthy newborn provides a source of pleasure and exploring, and represents a form of early learning. Anything that interferes with the mouth at this stage, such as an extended period of respiratory support, may lead to your infant associating her mouth with discomfort and this may lead to feeding problems. From a sensorimotor perspective, the stage when infants are sensitive to food textures is also when they begin showing their speech skills.(2)


The development of the digestive system in infants can be confusing. An infant with soft, loose stools for example may be thought to have diarrhea. This however is typical for breastfed infants. Another source of confusion is that stomach discomfort may interfere with weight gain. It can take 6 months for the gastrointestinal tract of an infant to mature, and this time can vary depending on the infant.(2,3)


During the third trimester of pregnancy, the fetus swallows amniotic fluid. This stimulates the lining of the intestines to grow and mature. At birth, the digestive system of an infant is mature enough to digest fats, protein, and simple sugars. It can also absorb fats and amino acids.(2,3) Infants often have conditions that reflect how immature the gut is. These conditions may include colic, GERD (reflux), unexplained diarrhea, and constipation. Generally, these conditions do not interfere with the absorption of nutrients, and they do not interfere with your infant’s growth.(2,4)


Colic should be addressed by rocking, swaddling, or bathing your infant, or by other ways of calming her, by positioning the baby well for eating, or burping her to relieve gas. Colic may be caused by the mother’s diet while breastfeeding and foods that commonly cause this problem include milk, and onions, so changes in the maternal diet can be helpful. Probiotics may be helpful.(2,4,5,6)


Using acid blocking medications to manage digestive symptoms such as colic or reflux can lead to problems with the digestion and absorption of nutrients, an increased risk for pneumonia, infections of the gastrointestinal tract, and over time can adversely affect your infant’s growth and development, as well as her overall health and wellbeing.(2,7)


Diarrhea can be caused by viral and bacterial infections, food intolerances, or changes in fluid intake. Young infants have more stools each day than older infants, and have them soon after feeding. Breastfed infants tend to have soft stools, and infants fed soy formula experience more constipationTo avoid constipation ensure adequate fluid intake, and avoid medications unless they are prescribed. Using prune or other juices for their laxative effects may result in fluid imbalance and diarrhea. High fiber foods present a choking risk, so they are not recommended for constipated infants.(2) When an infant presents with diarrhea, it is recommended to feed as usual during the bout. Breast milk does not cause diarrhea (it may help prevent it), and during a bout, continuing adequate intake of breast milk or infant formula is usually sufficient for preventing dehydration.(2,8)


Temperament refers to your infant’s emotional reactions to new situations, activity level, and sociability. Learning your infant’s temperament may take some time, and understanding it is important for you to appropriately respond to her cues of hunger and fullness. For example, she may feed better when there is not a lot of loud noise, or when you are feeling calm as opposed to being under stress.(2)


Most breastfed infants, or those who get the recommended amounts of formula, meet protein requirements without the need to add foods to the diet. There are no recommendations for fat intake, however restricting dietary fat is not recommendedCholesterol intake also should not be limited in infants because it is important for testes, ovary, and brain development. Fat is also needed to provide energy to the liver, brain, and muscles, including the heart. Full-term breastfed babies do not need to supplement fat or essential fatty acids (DHA and EPA). Essential fatty acids are required to make hormones, and for normal growth and development. Carbohydrates are also important because without enough of them, your infant’s body will use protein for energy by pulling it from her muscles, and this can interfere with proper growth and development.(2,9)


Infants ideally should be breastfed exclusively during the first 6 months of life, and then for an additional 6 months. For infants less than 6 months of age, no other liquids or foods are recommended in addition to breast milk (or formula). The volume taken in is not the best indicator of nutritional adequacy. Rather, focus on the growth rate and health of your infant.(2)


Using cow’s milk (whole, skim, reduced fat, etc.) is not recommended during infancy.(2,9) Iron deficiency anemia can be linked to early introduction of cow’s milk in infants, where calcium interferes with iron absorption in the body.(2,10)


Soy based formulas are not recommended because they contain hormone like substances that may adversely impact development, and have long-term reproductive risks.(2,11)Lactose-free and hydrolyzed formulas may be alternatives to soy for infants that are not breastfed and cannot be fed cow’s milk.(2,9)


Infants are born with the innate ability to regulate their energy (food) intake.(2) Learning their hunger and fullness cues can prevent under and overfeeding.(2)


By age 6 months, infants may be ready to eat from a spoon. If your infant is able to move her tongue from side to side without moving her head, and she can keep her head upright and sit with little support, it is time to try spoon-feeding. Other cues she may give when it comes to feeding, hunger and fullness include:(2)


  1. Excitedly watching the food being opened in anticipation of eating it

  2. Tight fists or reaching for the spoon to demonstrate hunger

  3. Showing agitation if the pace of feeding is too slow or if the person feeding her stops

  4. Playing with her food or spoon as she starts to get full

  5. Slowing the pace of eating or turning away from food when she is feeling full

  6. Stopping eating or spitting out food when she has had enough to eat


The introduction of solid food can be a challenging time for your infant, and for you. Begin offering food on a spoon in small quantities the size of 1-2 tablespoons for a meal, with one or two meals each day. The goal of offering food on a spoon to infants at 6 months of age is to help stimulate the development of mouth muscles, rather than to provide nutrition, which ideally is being done via breastfeeding.  Spoon feeding involves two new experiences for your infant in that a spoon has a different mouth feel than a breast, and the food does not feel the same as breast milk does on the tongue.(2) For tips on introducing solid foods, see “Getting Toddlers to Eat Solids and Ideas for Picky Eaters”.


The position of your infant during feeding is important to avoid choking, discomfort while eating, and ear infections. For the first few months, semi-upright, as your infant would be seated in a car seat or infant carrier, is recommended. Propping a bottle or placing your infant on a pillow can increase the risk for choking, and result in overfeeding. For spoon-feeding, your infant can have better control of her mouth and head if seated with good back and foot support. Sit directly in front of her when offering the spoon, and make eye contact without making her have to turn her head. Using a high chair is appropriate when your infant can sit on her own without assistance. Her hips and legs should be at about 90 degrees, and this position is important for digestion. More spitting up is likely if she is sliding down and out from under the tray of her high chair.(2)


Some infants may be resistant to learning new feeding skills or react to food introductions unusually. Problems like this may indicate general health or developmental difficulties. They may also indicate your child is a picky eater. For tips on navigating picky eaters, see “Getting Toddlers to Eat Solids and Ideas for Picky Eaters”, and talk to a qualified health care provider if you are concerned there are deeper issues at play.(2)


Weaning from your breast is recommended when your infant is 12 to 24 months of age.(2,12)If your infant is breastfed for the first year of life (as is recommended), introducing a cup for water and other fluids after 6 months of age is recommended. This is around the same time it is recommended to begin attempting spoon-feeding. Developmental readiness for a cup begins around 6 to 8 months of age. The typical portion size of fluid from a cup is about 1 to 2 ounces. Moving from a bottle to a sippy cup developmentally is not the same as moving to a regular cup. Keep in mind the same mouth skills that help your infant control liquids help encourage speech development. We want to foster this development by introducing a cup. Weaning from the breast or bottle too soon may result in a plateau in weight if your infant is not taking in enough energy (calories), and may cause constipation if she is not receiving enough fluids.(2)


At 6 months of age, infants go from swallowing only fluids to being able to handle pureed and soupy foods. An infant’s mouth is extremely sensitive to texture and if food with soft lumps is presented too soon, she may choke. Offering lumpy yet soft foods around 6 to 8 months of age helps to stimulate jaw movements that simulate chewing. At 8 to 10 months of age infants can chew and swallow soft, mashed foods. Mature chewing skills are not mastered until toddler age, so offering foods that require little chewing is important.(2)


Baby cereal is generally the first food recommended for infants at 6 months of age. Rice cereal is commonly recommended because it is easy to digest and hypoallergenic.(2,12) Note that adding baby food is not recommended to help improve your infant’s sleep as is commonly believed.(2)


Fruits and vegetables are also first foods for infants. It is recommended for 6 month olds, that parents introduce only one new food at a time, and to offer it over 2 to 3 days, and the purpose of this is to identify any possible negative reactions to new foods. This timing and spacing of food introductions is important, especially in families with histories of food allergies and intolerances.(2)


Commercial baby foods are not necessary for infants.(2) As a parent, you can prepare baby foods at home in your blender or food processor, or by mashing it with a fork. Adding salt and sugar to baby foods prepared at home decreases their nutritional quality. Preparing baby foods at home can save money, provide a wider range of foods for your infant to try, and can be more nutritious (if you do not add salt and sugar to the foods for example). Commercial baby food on the other hand is convenient.(2)


Portion sizes for infants should be based on their appetite, keeping in mind their innate ability to control how much food they eat based on their cues of hunger and fullness.(2) Also keep in mind that commercially prepared products such as fruits with added tapioca or baby food desserts and snack foods are not recommended for most infants. Many new parents inadvertently select foods such as these for their infants based on their own likes and dislikes, rather than on the needs of the infant. Regular applesauce, yogurt, soft cooked green beans and mashed potatoes, are examples of foods that can be eaten by infants, as well as other family members once the infant reaches 9 to 12 months of age, making food preparation for your family easier and more streamlined.(2)


Examples of foods that present a choking risk include hot dog pieces, hard candy, jelly beans, peanuts and other nuts, chunks of nut butters, whole grapes, uncut stringy meat, sausage, sticky foods (marshmallows, gum, gummy candies), hard fruits or vegetables like raw apples and raw green beans.(2)


For the first 6 months, breast milk or formula provides enough water for your infant. All forms of fluid contribute to meeting the water needs of your infant. Replacing infant formula or breast milk with juice, sports drinks, soda or tea contributes to lower quality dietary intake and is not recommended.(2,12)


Infants have a limited ability to signal thirst, especially when they are sick. Vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration quickly. Over the counter remedies (like Pedialyte and Gatorade) can easily become overused. Juices are not needed to meet fluid needs. Juice and other sugar containing beverages are not recommended for use before 6 months of age. They increase the risk for overweight and obesity later in life, and they should never be used at bedtime in a bottle because sugar in the mouth can easily lead to the formation of cavities.(2,13,14) Juices can be used after one year of age, and are not recommended for use prior to this time. Juice should be offered in a cup (if it is offered) and never in a bottle. Limiting juice at this stage is important so that it does not become a habit later in life. It is an unnecessary source of added dietary sugar. Excessive use of a baby bottle at bedtime can lead to cavities and ear infections so limit use of bottles as part of your bedtime routine.(2,14,15)Again, offer juice in a cup and not in a bottle, and if offering a bottle for sleep, only fill it with water. Make sure to clean baby teeth to prevent the formation of cavities.(2)


During your infant’s first few months of life, the oral need to suck can be easily confused with hunger. Also, not all signs of infant discomfort are related to hunger. A crying baby does not always want or need food. Infants may want to be held, changed, or calmed by movement or touch. Overfeeding is often the result as parents try to comfort their infant, and overfeeding is less likely to occur with breastfeeding compared to formula feeding.(2)


Infants typically move their tongue forward and backward. During their first attempts at spoon-feeding this may appear as if your infant is rejecting the food. It may look like your infant is spitting out her food but rather she is learning to swallow. If choking occurs, it may be due to the position of the spoon on the tongue, and not due to dislike of the food being offered. The mouth is very sensitive, particularly toward the back, and if the spoon is placed there, it can cause a gagging reaction, which has nothing to do with the taste of the food.(2)


Infants learn food preferences based on their food experiences.(2,16) Breastfed infants can be exposed to a wider variety of tastes within breast milk compared to infants who are formula fed. What the mother eats flavors her breast milk. Breastfed babies may have a quicker acceptance of new foods after the first year of life because of this. There is a genetic predisposition toward sweet tastes(17) and against bitter foods, which can affect food preferences. Lifelong habits are born out of food preferences developed in infancy, so it is important to incorporate a variety of flavors into your infant’s nutritional regimen.(2)


The immune system of infants develops over the first few years of life.(18) While breastfeeding, the mother’s immune system may pass some immunity to the infant.(19) Adverse reactions to foods are more common in infants than in children. The most common allergic reactions are respiratory and skin problems (wheezing and skin rashes).(2) You can lower your infant’s risk for food allergy or intolerance by breastfeeding. In families with known food allergies and intolerances, you can lower your infant’s risk by postponing the introduction of foods that are commonly known as allergens, such as peanuts, wheat, eggs, milk, nuts, sesame, fish, and various fruits and vegetables.(2,20) Otherwise, restriction of foods is not recommended because doing so can increase the risk for nutritional inadequacy and reinforce behaviors like rejection of foods, and limiting variety. Breast milk is recommended for infants that are at risk for allergies, soy is not recommended. Also consider the role of environmental allergens in your infant’s symptoms. Often dust and grasses are to blame rather than foods.(2)


Recognizing an infant’s needs and responding to them appropriately is important. Infants that are offered only a limited variety of foods without much interaction during mealtime may refuse to eat as a way to get attention, and infants who learn to manipulate the behavior of adults will become even more successful at this when they become toddlers.(2)


Need assistance or have questions? Contact me today!



  1. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG. OB-Gyns Redefine Meaning of “Term Pregnancy.” Published October 22, 2013. Available from: Accessed January 2, 2018.

  2. Brown J. Nutrition through the Life cycle 4th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth; 2011.

  3. Abrahamse E, Minekus M, van Aken GA, et al. Development of the Digestive System—Experimental Challenges and Approaches of Infant Lipid Digestion. Food Digestion. 2012;3(1-3):63-77. doi:10.1007/s13228-012-0025-x.

  4. Gelfand AA. Infant Colic. Seminars in pediatric neurology. 2016;23(1):79-82. doi:10.1016/j.spen.2015.08.003.

  5. Anabrees J, Indrio F, Paes B, AlFaleh K. Probiotics for infantile colic: a systematic review. BMC Pediatrics. 2013;13:186. doi:10.1186/1471-2431-13-186.

  6. De Weerth C, Fuentes S, de Vos WM. Crying in infants: On the possible role of intestinal microbiota in the development of colic. Gut Microbes. 2013;4(5):416-421. doi:10.4161/gmic.26041.

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Introducing Solid Foods

Photo credit: life is fantastic

Photo credit: life is fantastic

Introduction of solid food begins with offering food on a spoon in small quantities the size of 1-2 tablespoons for a meal, with one or two meals each day. The goal of offering food on a spoon to infants at 6 months of age is to help stimulate the development of mouth muscles, rather than to provide nutrition, which ideally is being done via breastfeeding.  Spoon feeding involves two new experiences for infants in that a spoon has a different mouth feel than a breast, and the food does not feel the same as breast milk does on the tongue. Babies respond strongly new to new tastes or smells.


Tips for introducing solid foods include:


  1. Spoon-feeding experiences should occur when your baby is not too tired or too hungry, rather she should be active and playful.

  2. Use a small, shallow spoon, and consider the temperature of the spoon in that depending on what it’s made of, it may be hot or cold.

  3. Let your baby open her mouth and extend her tongue toward the food, and if she cannot extend her tongue farther out than her lower lip, she is not ready for spoon-feeding.

  4. Do not touch the spoon too far back on the tongue as it may trigger a gag reflex, keep it forward to the front of the mouth, and apply gentle downward pressure.

  5. Keep the spoon level, your baby’s chin should be slightly down to protect her airway, and using her gums to scrape food off the spoon is not recommended.

  6. Base the pace of eating on her ability to swallow so as not to induce choking.

  7. First meals may be of small quantities, about 5 – 6 baby spoons of food, they may last about 10 minutes, and should be based on your baby’s interest.


As your baby masters eating from a spoon, learn to follow her signs to indicate the rate at which she wants to eat.


In the absence of anatomical problems or health conditions that make it difficult or uncomfortable for children to eat certain foods, picky eating can just be a normal bump in the road of childhood development. For example, learning to control the tongue is a skill that has to be practiced, and sometimes kids just have issues with certain textures. This is particularly the case when a child transitions to eating solid foods. 


Brown J. Nutrition through the Life cycle 4th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth; 2011.