Feeding and Breastfeeding Your 8 to 12 Month Old

Sample meal plan and guidelines for the addition of new foods

Mother breastfeeding baby
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By the time your baby is 8 months old, she should be eating cereal, fruits, and vegetables. She may even be learning to grab finger foods and drink from a cup. Between the ages of 8 and 12 months, it's common for babies to have three meals a day plus a few snacks. But, it's also really important that breast milk (or infant formula if you're not breastfeeding or using breast milk) continue to be a regular part of the daily diet.

Exclusive Breastfeeding

After the first 4 to 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the continuation of breastfeeding along with the addition of complementary foods for a year or longer.

The World Health Organization recommends that breastfeeding continues for two years or longer. These recommendations are in place because breastfeeding continues to provide many health and developmental benefits to children well after six months of age.

Breastfeeding is all your child needs for the first four to six months. But, after six months your breast milk will not be enough to provide your baby with all the nutrition that she needs as she grows. Your child needs additional foods that contain vital nutrients such as iron, protein, and zinc. While breast milk is still important and continues to be beneficial after six months, it needs to be part of a more complete diet.

Exclusively breastfeeding for eight months or longer can cause a child to become dangerously malnourished. Plus, waiting to introduce solid foods can make the transition more difficult, and a child may end up breastfeeding constantly to try to get the calories and nutrition that he's lacking. But, by gradually adding new foods to your baby's diet starting between four and six months, you will be putting your child on the right track to eating a variety of healthy foods and snacks by the time she's 8 months old.

Breast Milk Needs

Between 8 months and one year of age, your baby needs 750 to 900 calories a day. Half of that—about 450 of those calories—should come from breast milk. That equals approximately 24 ounces (720 ml) of breast milk each day. Your child can get what she needs by continuing to breastfeed or taking breast milk in a bottle throughout the day.

Feeding Frequency

When your child is between 8 and 12 months old, you can breastfeed in the morning, before naps, after snacks and meals, and at bedtime. It's also still OK to breastfeed your child for comfort when she's scared, upset, or hurt.

At snack time and meal time, you'll want to give solid foods first and then breastfeed after. This way your child will hopefully eat at least some of the food. If you breastfeed first, your little one may fill up on breast milk and be less interested in eating the solids that you're offering.

Sample Feeding Schedule

Here's a sample feeding and breastfeeding schedule for an 8 to 12-month-old:

Wake Up

  • Breastfeed or four to six ounces (120-180 mLs) of breast milk in a cup or bottle

Morning Meal

  • Two ounces (60 ml) of cereal
  • Two ounces of fruit
  • Breastfeed or four to six ounces of breast milk 

Mid-Morning Snack

  • Two ounces of fruit or vegetables
  • Finger foods
  • Offer water in a sippy cup

Afternoon Meal

  • Two ounces of yogurt, meat, or cheese
  • Two ounces of vegetables
  • Breastfeed or four to six ounces of breast milk

Mid-Afternoon Snack

  • Two ounces of fruit or vegetables
  • Finger foods
  • Water in a sippy cup

Evening Meal

  • Two ounces of protein, such as chicken or meat
  • Two ounces of vegetables
  • Two ounces of fruit
  • Two ounces of starch, such as pasta, rice, or potatoes
  • Four to six ounces of breast milk 

At Bedtime

  • Breastfeed or six to eight ounces of breast milk

Weaning

It's ultimately up to you to decide when you want to stop breastfeeding.

You can choose to breastfeed well beyond a year, or you can wean from the breast but still pump breast milk for your child. You could also decide to switch over to infant formula, or some other combination of any or all of your options. As long as your baby is getting the nutrition that she needs, you can pick the feeding method and schedule that works the best for you, your child, and your family. 

Adding New Foods

As your child grows, she'll be trying new and different foods. Here are some tips and recommendations for the addition of new foods.

  • Give your child small, frequent feedings. Infants have little bellies, so it's best to feed them small amounts of food throughout the day.
  • Don’t force your child to eat. Babies tend to be inconsistent about eating. One day they will eat finger foods and pureed foods willingly, but the next day they may refuse any solid food and opt for the breast or a bottle instead.
  • Offer a variety of safe finger foods. Finger foods make great snacks. By eight months, your baby can use her thumb and forefinger to pick up small pieces of food. Encourage self-feeding by providing different finger foods for your baby to try such as cheerios, small pieces of bread, or cut-up cooked chicken, vegetables or pasta. But, even with foods that are safe for infants and toddlers, you should always stay close and watch for signs of choking. 
  • Give the spoon a try. Begin using a spoon to feed your baby and help him to feed himself. At first, he's more likely to play with the spoon or throw it. He'll eventually use it to eat, but it may not be until after he is a year old.
  • Use a sippy cup. At this age, many infants can begin to hold and practice drinking water, breast milk, or infant formula from a sippy cup.
  • Introduce foods with different textures. Your baby can now chew, so you can start to add foods that have different textures. Cut-up table foods and soft foods, such as mashed potatoes, pudding, yogurt, jello, and eggs, are good choices.
  • Start new foods slowly. Continue to introduce new foods one at a time every few days. Watch for signs of a food allergy, which can include a rash, diarrhea, gassiness, spitting up and vomiting.
  • Keep an eye out for constipation. Cereal and bananas are popular foods that babies eat at this age, but they can lead to constipation. If your child starts to have difficulty with bowel movements, try adding prunes or other fruits and limit some of the more binding foods for a while.

Challenges

As your child grows, the world around her becomes more exciting. It's easier for her to become distracted and less interested in breastfeeding. So, sometimes at 8, 9, or 10 months of age, a baby may begin to refuse the breast or seem as though she's self-weaning. Some moms take this as a sign to fully wean since it seems like a more natural time for an easier transition. But, if you aren't ready to wean, you can often get through this stage and continue to breastfeed.

A Word From Verywell

It's still beneficial for both you and your baby to continue breastfeeding between 8 and 12 months. However, breast milk alone is not enough. As your child grows, she needs a complete diet, so it's important to provide healthy snacks and meals along with your breast milk.

Keep in mind that children at this age don't necessarily eat consistently. Every child is different and while some 8-month-olds eat solids well and easily follow a feeding schedule such as the one above, others will take longer to get used to eating snacks plus three meals a day. You may find that one day your baby takes solids without a problem and the next he only wants to breastfeed.

Just try to be patient and keep offering both solids and the breast. And don't worry—you don't have to figure it all out on your own. Your child's doctor will guide you and advise you about what your child should be eating and when to try it. So, keep those regularly scheduled well-baby appointments to be sure that your child is getting what she needs to grow healthy and strong.

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics. Your Baby’s First Year Third Edition. Bantam Books. New York. 2010.

Eidelman AI, Schanler RJ, Johnston M, Landers S, Noble L, Szucs K, Viehmann L. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 2012 Mar 1;129(3):e827-41.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition. Mosby. 2015.

Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

 

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