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At 1 year old, your child is learning to eat on her own. She can chew her food as well as you can, so she can eat the same foods as the rest of the family.

At this age, breastmilk still provides important nutrition and protection against disease, but other foods become her main source of nutrition and energy. Feed her other foods first and then breastfeed after if she is still hungry.

What to feed your child

Your child can eat anything, so give her some of all the food your family eats and make every bite count. Each meal needs to be packed with nutritious food.

Be sure she has a portion of animal foods (milk, dairy, eggs, meat, fish and poultry) each day, plus legumes (like chickpeas, lentils or peas) – or nuts, and orange or green vegetables and fruits. Add a little oil or fat to her food for energy.

Be sure your child’s snacks are healthy, such as fresh fruit.

How much food and how often

Your child can take between three quarters to one cup of food three to four times a day, plus one to two snacks between meals.

If you’re not breastfeeding, he’ll need to eat more often. At 1 year, about the time he’s starting to walk, your child’s feeding schedule should include four to five meals a day, plus two healthy snacks. Milk products are a very important part of your child’s diet – give him one or two cups of milk a day.

Foods to avoid

Avoid junk food and soft drinks. Factory-made snacks like crisps, cookies, cakes, soda and candy are unhealthy. They have high amounts of sugar, salt, fat and chemicals, and take up space in your child’s stomach that should be filled with nutritious foods.

Mealtime tips

Having his own bowl of food will help your child learn to feed himself. Start as soon as he wants. Give him all the food he needs and plenty of time to eat.

At first, he’ll be slow and messy. Help him so that he gets most of the food in his mouth (instead of on himself or the floor!). Encourage him to finish it and make sure he has had enough.

Give your child lots of love and encouragement to eat during meal times.

Sit in front of him and make eye contact. Interact with your child, smile at him, talk to him and praise him for eating.

Make the meal a happy time!

What to do when your child refuses to eat solid foods

Make sure she is hungry at mealtimes and has not just had a snack. Although breastfeeding continues to be healthy for your child, breastfeed her only after her meal. At this age, she should eat solid food first.

Give your child healthy food that she likes or mix the food she likes with food she doesn’t like as much. Try different food combinations and textures.

If she still refuses, don’t force or pressure her to eat, and don’t be tempted to give her junk food instead.

Be calm and accepting. Give your child positive attention when she does eat, but don’t make it a problem when she doesn’t eat. Just take the food away, cover it, and offer it to her again a bit later.

Feeding Your Toddler

After eating enthusiastically as an almost-toddler, your toddler’s eating will suddenly become cautious, erratic, picky, and fickle. Many times, she will only eat a few tastes, swallows, finger-fulls, or bites. Other times, she will eat more than you can imagine.  Do not try in any way to get her to eat. Instead, give her both clear leadership and a sense of control.

  • Get started with family meals, if you aren’t having them already.
  • Give leadership by offering foods you choose, at sit-down meals and snacks, at regular and reliable times.
  • At meals and snacks let her decide how much and even whether she eats from foods you have put on the table.
  • Keep yourself comfortable by understanding her normal, erratic, eating behavior.
  • Let her get down from the table when she loses interest in eating and/or starts to misbehave. Teach her to play quietly while you finish eating. You are following a division of responsibility in feeding.

Don’t teach eating for emotional reasons

Your toddler is at high risk for learning to use food for emotional reasons. Toddlers are active, unceasing in their demands and prone to get upset. It is tempting to give food to quell the riot. Don’t. Instead, stick to scheduled feedings and sort out whether your child is hungry or sad, full or tired. Give attention, discipline, hugs or naps.

Maintain the quality of your feeding relationship

  • Get your focus off what your child eats and on to how your child feels and behaves at family meals.
  • Have 3 meals a day at set times and eat with her – don’t just feed her. Offer her sit-down snacks every 2 to 3 hours between times.
  • Offer her the same safe food you offered when she was an almost-toddler.
  • She will be skeptical even of food she has eaten enthusiastically before, but do not short-order cook or limit the menu to foods she readily accepts. Instead, be considerate without catering in your meal-planning.
  • Let her eat her way – fingers or utensils, fast or slow, much or little, 1 or 2 foods, and in any order – even if she eats dessert first.
  • Say no when she begs for food or drinks between times, except for water.

Feedings during the night: 1 to 2 years

To feed or not to feed in the middle of the night – that is the question. Experts agree that if your baby is younger than 6 months old, you should feed him whenever he wakes at night.

But once he’s past the 6-month marker, skip the midnight snack. The goal is to separate eating from going to sleep so that if your toddler does wake up at night, he won’t need your breast or a bottle to get back to sleep.

What should you do if your toddler still wants to eat at night? We turned to five leading sources: child psychologist and sleep expert Jodi Mindell, experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics, and pediatricians Richard Ferber, T. Berry Brazelton, and William Sears.

Mindell’s view

At this age, your child should be getting enough nutrition during the day so that she doesn’t need to eat at night. You may make sleep problems more likely if you continue to breastfeed or give her a bottle when she wakes during the night.

If you’re breastfeeding, gradually shorten the time she nurses. Change the time you nurse so it isn’t near the time your child falls asleep, and have someone else put her to bed so she doesn’t smell your milk.

You can cut out bottle-feeding by reducing the amount of formula by 1 ounce every night.

The AAP’s view

If your child is used to getting a lot of attention at night, it’s time to gradually retrain him. If you’ve been giving him milk when he wakes up, for example, either dilute it or switch to water and gradually stop giving him anything. He needs to learn that nighttime is for sleeping.

Ferber’s view

Try not to associate feeding your child with her going to sleep. If she falls asleep while she’s eating, stop and put her in her crib. As she gets older, gradually reduce the number and frequency of her feedings.

Brazelton’s view

If your child still wants to drink out of a bottle, you can make it part of your bedtime ritual, along with a story and so on. At this age, he needs the bottle more for comfort and relaxation than anything else.

Don’t put a bottle in bed with him, though. It can contribute to tooth decay and acts as a substitute source of security.

Sears’s view

Try to teach your child various sleep associations that don’t involve eating so she doesn’t get locked into needing food to help her nod off.

Give her a bottle in a rocking chair and then help her snuggle with a transitional object, such as a teddy bear. Then transfer your child and the teddy bear to bed, but leave the bottle behind.


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