Things change right around their first birthday, so today’s episode will guide you to the right 12 month old feeding schedule for your little one.
Right around 11 months, 12 months, 13 months old — it’s a big transition time! So if you’re wondering what changes with nutrition and feeding will happen when they finish up their first year, you are in the right place.
If you don’t already know me, I’m Kacie Barnes, MCN, RDN, and I’m the dietitian for ALL things toddler. This is my specialty! I’ve worked with hundreds of families with toddlers and have studied toddler development.
Call into the podcast with your question!
This is Feeding Toddlers Made Easy and you can call into the podcast voicemail at 469-552-5527 to ask your question for a chance for me to answer it on a future episode.
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Melissa called in with this week’s question, let’s hear it:
Hi, my name’s Melissa. My son Titus just turned one last week, and I was curious how necessary food is before 1 and right after one year old. My son is pretty much a grazer and doesn’t really eat a whole lot still most of the time. He’s interested in food, but he doesn’t actually swallow much. Is this normal for 12 months of age? Was just curious. Would love to hear from you.
How necessary are solids at 12 months old?
Serving solids at 3 meals a day is your goal when they are around 12 months old.
Many of you will be serving 3 meals around 10 or 11 months, But if you haven’t yet, and their birthday has passed, now is the time.
At 12 months they are officially a toddler so we’re starting that transition away from babyhood.
There’s 4 reasons why it’s important for baby to be well established on solids before 12 months old.
1. Top allergen introduction and continued exposure can prevent food allergies.
It doesn’t have to be a big serving of these allergenic foods for it to count. But it’s not like, introduce peanut butter one time and you’re done.
About 3 times a week is what you’re aiming for.
If you’re like Kacie, I just don’t know that I can keep up with that for all the top allergens, I don’t even know what all the top allergens are! Then check out Spoonful One. They have mix-ins, puffs, and little oat crackers to provide exposure to 16 of the most common food allergens. (Disclosure: I’ve partnered with this brand, but this is not a sponsored mention.)
- Introducing top allergens before 12 months of age may reduce the likelihood of developing a food allergy by up to 96% over the first 10 years of life. Source. This includes peanut, tree nut, milk, wheat, egg, soy, fish, and sesame.
2. Less diversity of food by 12 months is associated with a greater risk of asthma and eczema.
The more variety of foods you can introduce, the better. Source.
3. Some research points to late introduction of solids contributing to picky eating (late in moving beyond purees).
I’ve personally seen this in my practice with parents who got stuck on purees for too long. Finger foods can be safe for babies once they establish some comfort with purees. This can be as soon as a week or a few days after starting solids around 6 months old. Check out this post: When Can Babies Eat Cheerios and Finger Foods?
4. It’s hard for them to get all the calories and nutrients they need if their diet is still primarily formula or breastmilk at this point.
This is NOT a knock against breastfeeding at all, it’s just something to consider. A one year old will need supplemental nutrition beyond nursing.
How much should a 12 month old be eating?
Melissa asked about amounts. She said that while her son is interested in food and will put it in his mouth, she doesn’t know how much he’s actually swallowing.
If they are still getting around 25-30 ounces of formula and/or breastmilk, they’re only going to need about 300-400 calories from food. When you split that into 3 meals, that’s a little over 100 calories per meal. If they eat ¼ of a peanut butter sandwich, they’ve hit that meal’s calorie need. So it’s very possible that with a couple bites actually being swallowed, they are getting what they need.
They may be not getting that much formula, breastmilk, or even cow’s milk if you’ve switched. But, it’s still common for them to have meals where they don’t eat a ton.
There’s no set portion size that you can always count on them eating.
You can only count on it being unpredictable – so do not feel like you have to make them eat more at a meal if it seems like not that much food when they’re done eating.
At 12 months old how many calories do they need?
About 1000 calories a day, but you don’t need to count.
What do I do if I’m still breastfeeding or formula feeding at 12 months?
If you are breastfeeding/pumping: the choice is yours at 12 months. You can wean, you can continue. If you have been able to breastfeed for this long, that is truly incredible. Many mothers can’t keep it up for 12 months. If you didn’t nurse for nearly this long, you do not need to feel bad or guilty.
Formula: it’s time to think about quitting bottle feeding. Make the switch to whole milk, soy milk, or pea milk. Read this post for tips on weaning off bottles: How to Wean Your Toddler off Bottles (for good!)
What if you are trying to switch to milk and your toddler won’t drink much milk (or won’t drink any milk)? Read section 1 of this post on other ways to get important nutrients while they are getting used to milk.
Sample schedules for 12 month olds
So what would an ideal daily schedule look like for a 12 month old in terms of feeding and napping? It’s going to vary depending on 2 naps vs 1 nap, and nursing or no nursing. I have sample schedules below. But I’ll tell you in general what you’re moving towards.
- The best toddler feeding schedule will have 3 meals and 2 snacks.
- Milk will be served with meals in a cup.
- You’re aiming for about 2-3 hours in between meals and snacks.
- How much they actually eat at each of these occasions is up to them; it will vary considerably.
- Your job is to provide the food at these fairly regular times.
If you need ideas on WHAT to feed them, to make sure they get good nutrition and enough to eat, visit my shop to grab the meal bundle, it has easy toddler breakfast + lunch + dinner guides.
Susan M purchased the lunch and dinner guides before the breakfast one came out and she said,
“I just wanted to say thank you SO much for your awesome, “real life” meal plans. I have spent hundreds of dollars on so-called easy/quick/”every kid will love” meal plans and cookbooks, just to end up spending wayyy too much time in the kitchen and listening to my kid complain that she didn’t like the food anyway. Sigh. I swore that I was never going to buy any plans or books again, but I decided to give your dinner (and lunch!) plans a try, and it was the best money I’ve ever spent. Easy to follow instructions, and my picky eater (and her almost as-picky little sister) loved the food! You’re awesome! PS My husband and I ate the same meals, so they definitely work well for the whole family!”
Thank you so much for the kind words Susan, I always love hearing from y’all because I do all of this to make feeding your kids easier so it brings me the greatest joy to know that my resources are helpful to you.
Links I mentioned in the episode:
- Spoonful One – for top allergenic food introduction
- How to Wean Your Toddler off Bottles (for good!)
- FYI, speech therapists no longer recommend sippy cups and primarily recommend using a straw cup or open cup. I have a video tutorial to teach your baby to drink from a straw cup here.
- Toddler Meal Bundle – easy healthy meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner